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ii-<rs  f/Or-i  iiirri  ii  ic 

Millard  Sheets 

Interviewed  by  George  M.  Goodwin 


Completed  under  the  auspices 

of  the 

Oral  History  Program 

University  of  California 

los  Angel  • 

Copyright  ©  19  77 
The  Regents  of  the  University  of  California 

This  manuscript  is  hereby  made  available  for  research 
purposes  only.   All  literary  rights  in  the  manuscript, 
including  the  right  to  publication,  are  reserved  to  the 
University  Library  of  the  University  of  California  at 
Los  Angeles.   No  part  of  the  manuscript  may  be  quoted 
for  publication  without  the  written  permission  of  the 
University  Librarian  of  the  University  of  California 
at  Los  Angeles. 


This  interview  is  one  of  a  series,  entitled  "Los  Angeles 
Art  Community:   Group  Portrait,"  funded  by  the  National 
Endowment  for  the  Humanities  and  conducted  from  July  1, 
1975  to  March  31,  1977  by  the  UCLA  Oral  History  Program. 
The  project  was  directed  jointly  by  Page  Ackerman, 
University  Librarian,  and  Gerald  Nordland,  Director, 
UCLA  Art  Galleries,  and  administered  by  Bernard  Galm, 
Director,  Oral  History  Program.   After  selection  of 
interview  candidates  and  interviewers,  the  Program 
assumed  responsibility  for  the  conduct  of  all  interviews 
and  their  processing. 


TAPE  NUMBER:   VII,  Side  One  (January  6,  1977) 315 

Appointment  as  director  of  Otis  Art  Institute 
— New  building  activity — New  faculty — Divisions 
on  board — MFA  degree--Individual  projects — 
Ceramics:   Peter  Voulkos — Gifts  from  the 
private  sector — The  Chandler  family — Otis 
Institute  today — Relationship  with  county 
government — California  Institute  of  the  Arts — 
Walt  Disney's  plan — the  effect  of  Disney's 
death--Resignation  from  the  Cal  Arts  board — 
The  Art  Center  School — Teaching  imagination 
in  art--Mural  painting:   first  exposure — Early 
commissions--Frescoes  for  South  Pasadena  Junior 
High  School — Murals  for  the  Golden  Gate 

TAPE  NUMBER:   VII,  Side  Two  (January  6,  1977) 358 

Diego  Rivera — Public  Works  Administration 
projects  in  Southern  Calif ornia--PWA  committee 
membership--Activities — Los  Angeles  art 
community  in  the  Depression- -PWA  artists — 
Lorser  Feitelson  and  Helen  Lundeberg — Initial 
involvement  with  Home  Savings — Meeting  Howard 
Ahraanson — Ahmanson's  office — Invitation  to 
design  a  building--Ahmanson ' s  instructions — 
Submitting  an  art  budget — Ahmanson  inspects 
the  building--Ahmanson:   "Where  do  we  go 
next?" — Public  response. 

TAPE  NUMBER:   VIII,  Side  One  (January  11,  1977).  .  .  .  384 

Criteria  for  Home  Savings  designs — Developing 
a  formula — Desire  for  flexibility — Importance 
of  function — Problems  of  construction — 
Obstacles:   city  planners,  bureaucrats — Role 
of  subordinates — Art  and  landscaping--Costs — 
Use  of  stained  glass — Use  of  ceramic  tiles — 
Favorite  Home  Savings  building:   Hollywood — 
Mosaics — Choosing  a  design — Preparatory 
research--Other  Home  Savings  buildings. 


TAPE  NUMBER:   VIII,  Side  Two  (January  11,  1977)  ....  412 

Durability  of  buildings — Self-criticism  of  Home 
Savings  designs — Payment  for  designs — Other 
work  for  Ahmanson — Commission  for  mosaic  mural 
at  Detroit  Public  Library — Commission  for  mural 
at  Notre  Dame  University  Library — Use  of  granite 
--Building  the  mural,  in  Minnesota — Matching 
colors  and  granite--Attaching  the  granite: 
using  pins — Seeking  an  overview. 

TAPE  NUMBER:   IX,  Side  One  (January  13,  1977) 438 

Examining  the  design  from  atop  a  water  tower — 
Checking  the  details--Moving  the  cut  pieces 
from  Minnesota  to  Indiana--Dedication 
ceremonies--Personal  satisfaction  and  public 
response--Cost  and  university  fund  raising — 
Details  and  colors — Mural  for  dome  of  National 
Shrine,  Washington,  D.C. — Design  problems — 
Computerized  cartoons — Mural  for  a  side  chapel 
--Other  artists  working  in  mosaics — Ravenna 
Mosaic  Company--Costs  and  fees. 

TAPE  NUMBER:   IX,  Side  Two  (January  13,  1977) 464 

Costs  and  fees  [cont 'd] --Cost  increases — 
Social  responsibility — Developing  a  master 
plan  for  the  Claremont  Colleges--Designing 
the  Garrison  Theatre--Executing  tile  mural 
for  Honolulu  Hilton  Hotel--Adoption  of  mural 
design  as  Hilton  logo — Mural  for  Los  Angeles 
City  Hall  East — Techniques  of  glazing — 
Sources  of  design--Consulting  for  Scottish 
Rite  cathedral,  Los  Angeles. 

TAPE  NUMBER:   X,  Side  One  (January  16,  1977)  489 

Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temple:   subjects  and 
designs — Mosaic  mural--Sculpture  on  the  south 
facade — Interior  spaces  and  decoration — 
Masons'  funds  and  philanthropic  activities — 
Designing  the  Masonic  temple  in  San  Francisco 
— Other  activities:   involvement  in  motion 
pictures — Design  for  academic  gowns  for 
Scripps  College — Official  seal  for  Los  Angeles 
County — Work  for  air  force  in  Formosa — 
Lectures  for  State  Department  in  Turkey — 
Travels  in  Turkey. 


TAPE  NUMBER:   X,  Side  Two  (January  16,  1977) 515 

Further  travels  in  Turkey — Visit  for  State 
Department  to  Soviet  Union — Russia  and  the 
Russians — Return  to  United  States:   lecture 
tours — Reaction  of  State  Department — 
Republican  politics:   delegate  to  1964 
National  Convention--Virginia  Steele  Scott 
Foundation:   trusteeship — Background — 
Planning  a  new  museum — Concentration  on 
American  art — Plans  for  the  future — Buying 
art  for  Bullock's  Department  Store. 

TAPE  NUMBER:   XI  [video]  (February  5,  1977) 542 

Barking  Rocks,  the  Sheets  home  in  Northern 
California — A  tour  of  the  art  collection — 
Mrs.  Sheets:   children  and  grandchildren — 
Interest  in  horses  and  pets--Design  of 
Barking  Rocks. 

[Second  Part]   (February  9,  1977) ....  557 

Sheets  paintings  in  Scott  Foundation 
collection  in  Pasadena — Oils  and  watercolors, 
1930s — Acrylics  and  watercolors,  1960s — 
Dramatic  change  of  style--The  nature  of 
painting — Painting  a  watercolor — A  tapestry 
— Use  of  color--Final  ruminations. 

Index 574 

Index  of  Millard  Sheets  Works 587 

JANUARY  6,  1977 

GOODWIN:   In  1955  you  became  the  director  of  Otis  Art 
Institute.   How  did  that  come  about? 

SHEETS:   Well,  that's  the  kind  of  a  thing  that  can  happen, 
I  guess,  once  or  twice  in  a  person's  lifetime.   During  the 
winter,  before  I  started  at  Otis  in  the  fall,  I  had  a  ter- 
rible accident  with  a  horse.   The  horse  threw  his  head  back, 
broke  my  cheekbone.   I  had  a  crack  that  went  halfway  around 
my  head;  it  just  knocked  the  hell  out  of  me.   I  was  spending 
considerable  time  at  home  after  the  operations  that  they  had 
to  make  after  the  ten  days  waiting  for  the  concussion  to 
heal.   I  had  a  call  from  John  Anson  Ford,  and  from  Mrs. 
[Leiland  Atherton]  Irish,  who  was  a  great  person  in  Los 
Angeles  in  those  days.   She  had  done  so  much  for  music. 
She'd  worked  on  many  philanthropic  boards,  and  she  was  a 
member  of  the  board  of  the  Otis  Art  Institute,  as  was  Mr. 
Ford,  who  then  was  a  county  supervisor.   They  called  me  to 
see  if  they  could  come  out  and  discuss  with  me  the  possi- 
bility of  hiring  a  new  director  for  Otis  Art  Institute. 

I  held  them  off  for  about  a  week  until  I  felt  a  little 
better.   They  came  out,  and  we  had  a  very  interesting  after- 
noon discussing  the  problem.   I  pointed  out  rather  quickly 
in  our  conversation  that  I  felt  it  would  be  difficult  to 
get  a  director  for  the  Otis  Art  Institute.   The  institute 


had  slowly  run  down  to  the  point  that  there  were  students 
that  had  been  there  for  twelve  years.   They  were  profes- 
sional students,  and  they  had  a  kind  of  an  atmosphere  that 
wasn't  at  all  like  it  was  in  the  early  days  of  Roscoe 
[Edwin  R.]  Schroder  and  the  early  days  of  the  institute. 
I  said  I  didn't  believe  they  could  get  a  director  that  was 
worth  anything,  worth  his  salt  or  her  salt,  to  come  there 
and  direct  the  school  as  it  was  being  operated.   They  said, 
"Well,  how  should  it  be  operated?"   I  made  the  inevitable 
mistake  of  saying  many  things  about  what  I  thought  should 
be  done  in  a  school  of  that  kind.   [tape  recorder  turned 

I  believe  deeply  that  a  school,  to  be  supported  by  the 
public,  should  function  in  a  unique  way  and  do  something 
that  a  private  school  could  not  do.   I  felt  that  there  was 
a  great  need  for  a  top  art  school  that  wasn't  entirely  com- 
mercial and  wasn't  entirely  aesthetic,  that  somewhere 
between  the  thing  that  is  being  done  in  most  of  the  colleges 
and  most  of  the  art  schools,  there  could  be  some  absolutely 
sound,  basic  training  in  the  skills  in  art  on  a  high  level 
of  taste  with  a  good,  strong  background  for  the  artist.   I 
outlined  this  in  general  to  these  nice  people. 

Well,  they  were  quite  interested  in  what  I  had  to  say, 
but  they  said,  "Look,  would  you  be  willing  to  meet  with  our 
board  after  you've  had  some  time  to  outline  what  you  think 
the  Los  Angeles  County  Art  Institute  should  be — the  kind 


of  curriculum,  the  kind  of  a  program,  whether  it  should  be 
formalized  and  so  on--and  then  meet  with  us  in  a  leisurely 
way  some  evening  in  Los  Angeles  and  talk  to  the  whole  board?" 
Well,  having  nothing  else  to  do  except  to  wait  to  get  over 
this  terrible  head  injury,  I  did  a  lot  of  thinking  about  it, 
and  I  wrote  down  a  real  concept  for  a  school.   I  went,  at 
their  invitation,  and  presented  my  ideas. 

I  remember  we  met  at  the  California  Club,  and  I  out- 
lined what  I  felt  was  a  solid,  major  institute  of  art, 
where  students  could  go  in  any  direction  they  wanted  if 
they  were  sufficiently  trained  in  the  total  aspect  of  art. 
In  other  words,  I  felt  that  they  needed  not  only  to  draw 
and  to  paint  if  they  wished  to  be  painters,  but  they  should 
have  adequate  training  in  design  and  sculpture,  some  in 
architecture,  so  that  these  people  would  be  able  to  roll 
with  the  punch  and  do  things  that  the  average  student  isn't 
able  to  do,  what  most  of  the  students,  really,  as  they  come 
out  of  school  today  are  not  able  to  do.   I  said  I  felt  that 
unless  the  Otis  Art  Institute  was  this  type  of  school,  I 
didn't  see  any  reason  for  it  to  exist.   I  thought  it  should 
go  out  of  business.   We  have  a  good  school  in  the  Art  Center 
which  is  a  more  commercially  oriented  school.   Within  its 
sphere,  I  think  it's  doing  as  fine  a  job  as  any  school  in 
the  United  States.   I  think  it's  doing  it  today  as  it  was 
in  those  days.   I  felt  that  there  were  plenty  of  colleges 
giving  all  of  the  aesthetic  hocus-pocus,  that  we  didn't 


need  to  get  into  that  area.   This  school  should  do  something 
that  was  really  needed,  and  I  made  the  point  that  the 
tremendous  growth  in  industry  here,  the  tremendous  need 
for  redesigning  our  whole  city  and  surroundings,  both  from 
an  ecological  point  of  view  and  from  an  aesthetic  point  of 
view,  we  needed  artists  who  were  trained  as  people  who 
could  work  with  business  people,  with  industry,  with 
politicians,  who  could  stand  on  their  own  feet  and  hold 
their  ground  in  a  way  that  I  think  an  educated  person  can. 

To  my  surprise,  they  became  very  enthusiastic  about 
this  idea.   Finally,  at  the  end  of  the  meeting,  John  Anson 
Ford  said,  "Well,  Millard,  would  you  become  the  director  if 
we  made  it  into  that  kind  of  a  school?"   I  said,  "John,  I'm 
as  safe  as  though  I  were  in  God's  pocket  because  you'll 
never  have  the  courage  to  turn  the  faculty  upside  down, 
hire  new  staff,  build  the  necessary  buildings,  and  support 
it  as  it  would  have  to  be  supported.   So  I  feel  very  safe 
in  saying  that  yes,  I  would,  because  it  would  be  a  tremen- 
dously exciting  challenge  if  you  did  it.   But  I  just  don't 
believe  that  with  all  the  best  of  intentions  on  the  part 
of  this  board,  that  you  can  do  it  in  Los  Angeles." 

Well,  it  just  happened  that  they  went  to  work,  and 
after  about  two  months  they  came  to  me  with  an  extremely 
firm  proposal  about  the  way  they  were  going  to  support  this 
school.   I  asked  for  a  leave  of  absence  from  Scripps,  where 
I  was  very  happy.   I  was  completely  my  own  boss;  I  had  the 


most  marvelous  staff,  the  greatest  relationship  with  the 
students  and  faculty,  and  lived  there,  and  my  children 
were  growing  up  there  in  Claremont.   I  felt  that  it  was 
almost  impossible  to  really  leave  Scripps,  so  I  asked  for 
a  leave  of  absence,  and  I  said  that  I  would  like  to  get 
the  school  started  and  as  soon  as  possible  train  a  director 
to  take  my  place. 

Well,  what  of  course  happened  was  that  it  took  a  full 
year  to  plan  the  school  and  to  hire  the  new  faculty,  which 
meant  I  had  to  have  another  year's  leave  of  absence.   Of 
course,  we  planned  the  building,  we  planned  all  the  new 
courses,  and  it  was  a  very  exciting  moment  in  my  life.   I 
think  that  the  staff  we  brought  together  in  the  beginning 
were  absolutely  devoted  to  this  basic  idea  of  interplay 
between  the  various  facets  of  art  training,  the  various 
skills.   At  the  same  time,  we  were  able  to  get  the  students 
very  excited  about  the  idea  of  an  artist  being  really 
educated.   It  was  a  very  tough  thing,  on  the  other  hand, 
to  have  to  really  let  go  the  majority  of  the  old  faculty 
and  to  remove  from  the  school  about  9  5  percent  of  the 
students  who  had  been  going  there.   There  were  some  stories 
in  that  that  are  just  incredible,  if  I  ever  told  them,  but 
I  think  they  are  better  left  unsaid. 

However,  by  the  beginning  of  the  second  year,  we  had 
started  the  new  building.   We  were  still  working  in  part 
of  the  old  building,  and  we'd  torn  down  the  original  front 


building,  which  was  the  old  Otis  mansion,  where  I'd  had  my 
office.   We  built  a  part  of  a  new  building,  where  I  moved 
my  office  and  started  work. 

We  set  the  level  very  high,  starting  at  the  second- 
year-college  level.   The  requirement  was  that  they  should 
have  a  minimum  of  two  years  of  college  or,  hopefully,  four 
years  of  college.   We  were  as  tough  in  checking  their 
transcripts  as  any  other  college  or  university  would  be. 
Then,  of  course,  in  addition  to  satisfactory  work  in 
college,  which  proved  to  us  that  they  had  an  intellectual 
capacity,  we  demanded  a  strong  portfolio.   I  think,  con- 
sidering the  fact  that  we  were  starting  from  scratch,  that 
we  had  an  extraordinary  group  of  students  in  those  first 
years,  because  we  kept  the  standard  high.   The  county 
agreed  that  we  didn't  have  to  fill  it  up  with  a  lot  of 
bodies,  that  they  were  willing  to  let  it  grow.   I  think 
we  started  with  about  eighty-five  students,  with  a  staff 
of  six  major,  full  professors  and  about  that  many  assistant 
professors.   It  meant  that  we  had  a  very  high  proportion  of 
professor-to-student,  which  I  think  is  better  education 
anyway . 

In  the  main,  it  worked  very  well.   It  is  true  that  I 
probably  made  a  few  mistakes  on  appointments,  because  you 
can't  always  know  how  a  person  will  truly  react,  even 
though  they  wish  to  agree  in  principle  with  the  philosophy. 
I  made  two  or  three  appointments  that  didn't  turn  out  right 


in  the  sense  that  they  were  basically  such  individualists 
that  they  didn't  really  want  to  be  a  part  of  a  larger  team 

GOODWIN:   Who  were  some  of  the  people  you  brought  to  the 
school,  some  of  the  faculty? 

SHEETS:   On  the  first  faculty,  Richard  Haines  was  head  of 
painting;  Renzo  Fenci  was  the  head  of  sculpture;  Peter 
Voulkos  was  the  head  of  the  ceramic  department;  oh,  the 
man  from  Pasadena  Junior  College  Cwho ,  I  understand,  is 
back  at  Otis  now)  [Leonard]  Edmondson,  was  the  head  of 
design;  and  [Herbert]  Jepson,  who  was  a  marvelous  teacher, 
was  the  head  of  drawing.   Those  were  the  key,  basic,  full 
professors.   I  didn't  even  have  an  assistant.   I  didn't 
have  a  dean,  even.   We  started  cold,  and  I  worked  very 
closely  with  the  staff. 
GOODWIN:   Were  you  teaching  also? 

SHEETS:   I  didn't  actually  teach,  but  I  spent  a  tremendous 
amount  of  time  with  the  students:   in  conference,  in  dis- 
cussion, in  advice.   I  spent  a  great  deal  of  time  with 
almost  every  student  before  they  came  in  to  the  school, 
and  then  I  followed  through  with  them.   I  did  do  quite  a 
bit  of  lecturing  on  my  concept  of  the  relation  of  art  to 
society  and  some  art  history.   We  had  a  top  man  from  USC 
in  art  history  [John  Braun] .   He  was  one  of  the  best 
lecturers  at  USC  at  that  time.   We  had  a  doctor  who  was 
a  brilliant  man  in  anatomy.   He's  a  good  painter  in  his 


own  right.   He's  a  doctor,  but  he  paints  as  an  avocation. 
He's  an  excellent  painter.   He  taught  anatomy — not  in  a 
dull,  pedantic  way,  but  in  a  very  creative  way.   He  worked 
very  closely  with  Jepson.   We  had  other  people,  like  Joe 
Mugnani,  and  we  had  other  painters.   I  should  get  a  list 
and  show  you  the  list,  but  I  can  hand  you  that  later. 
GOODWIN:   Did  you  bring  anyone  from  Scripps? 
SHEETS:   No,  I  did  not.   I  did  not  feel  that  it  was  right 
for  me  to  do  that.   Well,  I  did  bring  two  or  three  of  the 
Scripps  professors  in — one  on  history — but  not  in  a  sense 
of  taking  them  away  from  Scripps.   This  was  a  matter  of 
their  coming  in,  perhaps,  for  two  lectures  a  week.   I  had 
two  or  three  people  from  Scripps  that  did  that,  but  I  didn't 
take  anyone  from  the  art  staff.   I  didn't  feel  it  was  right, 
and  also  I  felt  always  I  was  going  back  to  Scripps. 

Well,  it  took  longer  than  I  thought  it  would  to  get 
this  program  into  gear.   I  think  it  was  about  the  third  or 
fourth  year  that  I  felt  we  were  really  beginning  to  move, 
in  the  full  sense.   We  had  a  lot  of  people  in  industry,  a 
lot  of  people  in  various  facets  of  business,  really  looking 
at  our  school  with  the  thought  that  they  could  get  a  very 
thoroughly  trained  person.   Of  course,  out  of  that  group 
came  young  people  like  Tom  Van  Sant,  who  has  done  incredible 
things  all  over  the  world.   He  was  the  second  graduate.   Our 
first  graduate  was  in  ceramics,  Paul  Soldner,  who  later 
became  the  head  of  the  ceramic  department  at  Scripps  and 


is  known  now  all  over  the  world.   I  think  the  first  thirty 
or  forty  graduates  were  all  people  who  really  made  names 

Then,  as  so  often  happens,  I  think  we  developed  a 
combination  of  many  things.   For  one  thing,  I  had  become 
so  deeply  involved  in  my  own  professional  work  that  I  had 
to  give  less  and  less  time  to  the  school,  though  I  was 
going  there  regularly  and  being  in  my  office  regularly  and 
running  staff  meetings  and  all  of  that  kind  of  thing.   I 
didn't  have  the  time  that  I  had  had  in  the  beginning  for 
the  more  personal  side  of  work  with  students,  and  I  think 
that  the  staff  felt  less  unified  because  of  that.   I  think 
they  became  a  little  bit  more  self-contained  as  individuals 
and  didn't  really,  in  the  full  sense,  cooperate.   They  were 
more  interested  in  getting  the  best  students  in  their  classes, 
and  this  is  often  the  case.   I  feel  as  responsible  for  that 
as  anyone  else. 

Also,  we  had  quite  a  division  on  our  board  about  the 
future  support  of  the  school.   One  member,  who  one  time  was 
chairman  of  the  board,  felt  that  we  should  literally  hand 
this  school  to  use  for  a  dollar  a  year  and  let  them  take  it 
over  and  take  it  off  of  the  county  support  roll.   I  certainly 
was  not  happy  with  that  thought,  for  two  reasons.   I  felt 
that  use  hadn't  particularly  distinguished  itself  in  art. 
They've  had  a  good  school  of  architecture,  and  they've  had 
a  few  good  students  come  out  of  USC  as  artists,  but  I  don't 


think  it  would  have  been  the  college  I  would  have  selected 
anyway,  if  we  had  to  go  the  route  of  selecting  a  college. 
This  became  a  real  fight  which  split  the  board  right  in 
half.   The  Otis  Art  Institute  board  supported  me  in  the 
main,  although  two  or  three  members  were  very  bitter  about 
the  fact  that  I  became  a  block  to  accomplishing  this.   I 
might  say  that  there  were  three  members  of  our  board  who 
were  very  closely  related  to  USC :   one  lady  whose  husband 
was  on  the  USC  board;  the  librarian  from  USC  was  on  the 
board;  and  the  third  person  was  an  architect  that  did  a 
good  deal  of  the  work  at  USC. 
GOODWIN:   Why  did  Otis  need  a  board? 

SHEETS:   Well,  any  of  the  divisions  within  the  county  that 
are  run  as  separate  operations,  in  a  sense,  must  have  a  lay 
board  appointed  by  the  supervisors.   Each  of  the  five  board 
members  appointed  two  people  on  alternating  terms  for  the 
Otis  board.   These  people  were,  of  course,  then  able  to 
check  back  to  their  supervisor  and  keep  the  supervisor 
involved,  and  it  was  very  important  that  they  do  that  because 
the  supervisors  sitting  down  there  found  it  difficult  at 
times  to  explain  to  the  lay  public  why  they  had  to  support 
an  art  school.   Now,  if  it  had  been  an  art  school  strictly 
run  for  artists,  I  think  there  would  have  been  a  lot  of 
legitimate  reasons  why  people  didn't  think  it  should  be 
supported.   But  we  envisaged  this  school  as  serving  the 
needs  of  the  county  in  a  very  direct  way.   We  did  not  mean 


that  every  student  that  graduated  had  to  go  out  and  become 
a  servant  of  the  county.   If  they  had  the  capacity  to 
become  highly  creative  artists  and  be  utterly  independent 
and  live  in  an  ivory  tower,  we  didn't  in  any  way  downgrade 
this  thought.   But  you  don't  have  that  many  people  out  of 
any  society  that  necessarily  warrant  that  kind  of  freedom. 
I  think  that  the  Board  of  Supervisors  thoroughly  understood 
when  we  made  them  rebuild  this  program,  because  I  spent  a 
great  deal  of  time  talking  with  them,  as  I  did  with  the  then 
chief  administrative  officer  of  the  county,  Arthur  Will,  who 
was  an  amazing  man.   I  did  have  full  support  of  the  five 
members  of  the  Board  of  Supervisors  in  all  the  early  years 
of  the  school . 

As  the  time  went  on  and  these  splits  occurred,  par- 
ticularly as  the  lady  that  I  mentioned  whose  husband  was 
on  the  use  board  at  that  time  was  probably  the  most  powerful 
woman  in  Los  Angeles,  you  could  see  that  we  had  problems. 
I  left  by  resigning.   I  wasn't  in  any  way  asked  to  resign. 
I  left  because  I  just  simply  couldn't  teach  anywhere  any 
longer.   I  had  so  much  work  and  many  necessities  for  travel 
for  my  own  business  that  I  just  couldn't  continue.   I  stayed 
six  years.   The  last  two  years  were  filled  with  this 
frustrating  feeling  that  the  school  really  wasn't  being 
supported  as  it  should  be  by  part  of  the  board  of  governors, 
and  then  in  turn,  the  people  they  represented  on  the  main 


I've  even  heard  riomors  lately  that  they  are  talking 
about  completely  removing  support  to  the  County  Art  Institute, 
which  would  be  the  death  knell  for  it.   It's  hard  to  conceive, 
but  I've  heard  this. 

GOODWIN:   What  was  the  cost  to  the  county  while  you  were 

SHEETS:   Our  budget  was  very  small,  relatively  speaking. 
I  can't  remember,  off  the  top  of  my  head.   I'm  sure  I  have 
it.   I  can  get  it  without  any  trouble,  but  it  was  a  low 
overhead.   There  was  no  serious,  major  amount  of  money.   It 
would  be  such  an  infinitesmal  part  of  the  budget  that  you 
wouldn't  know  it  was  there.   But  we  did  have  a  good  staff. 
We  had  fine  personnel  all  the  way  through,  from  the 
custodians  up. 

GOODWIN:   Did  you  introduce  the  MFA  degree  or  was  that 
already  in  existence? 

SHEETS:   I  introduced  it  at  Scripps,  and  we  gave  the  MFA 
degree  at  Otis.   That  was  part  of  the  plan:   to  start  at 
the  second  year  and  not  give  an  interim  degree,  no  BA  or 
anything  that  had  to  do  with  a  fourth-year  degree.   We 
were  to  go  straight  through  for  the  four  years  and  then 
give  an  MFA,  which  really  meant  that  the  student  was 
equipped.   They  were  masters  of  their  craft  and  they  were 
able  to  go  out  and  serve.   Right  after  I  left  the  institute, 
they  immediately  changed  that  and  gave  the  interim  degree, 
which  I  think  is  just  valueless.   Many  students  take  that 


and  leave,  which  means  they're  not  even  half-baked — they're 
not  trained. 

Of  course,  we  had  another  problem  right  from  the 
beginning,  and  that  was  to  get  the  staff  to  really  get  with 
this  problem  to  the  point  that  they  didn't  encourage  anyone 
after  the  first  year,  or  certainly  after  the  second  year,  if 
they  didn't  really  feel  that  the  student  was  of  the  quality 
material  that  should  be  there.   I  think  if  there's  any 
feeling  I  had  about  the  staff  that  I  selected,  it  was  their 
inability  to  really  face  that  issue  honestly  with  their 
students.   They  became  attached  to  them,  as  is  normal  in 
any  university  or  high  school  or  college  or  anyplace  else. 
I  think  very  often  their  hope  that  the  student  would  do 
better  than  he  was  doing  often  misguided  them  into  carrying 
him  on.   I  felt  that  the  grading  was  exceedingly  high  the 
first  year.   It  came  down  better  the  second  year.   By  the 
third  year  it  seemed  to  make  a  little  more  sense.   Many 
artists,  even  though  they've  had  some  college  and  other 
training,  are  not  equipped  to  really  grade  as  they  should. 
But  the  more  we  built  those  standards  up,  the  better  that 
school  became  and  the  more  exciting  it  became.   As  they 
started  to  lower  it,  it  went  right  back  into  another  level 

GOODWIN:   What  should  a  grade  tell  a  student? 
SHEETS:   Well,  of  course  you  have  three  systems:   you  can 
grade  or  you  can  write  comments  or  you  can  just  say  "passing" 


or  "not  passing."   But  I  think  the  grade  should  tell  the 
student  a  certain  amount.   I  think  that  if  you  follow  the 
present  system  of  grading  in  most  colleges  and  universities, 
a  B  is  a  better-than-average  grade.   But  I  think  that  in  the 
mind  of  most  Americans,  B  is  the  middle  grade.   Therefore, 
it's  really  tough  to  start  out  with  a  C  and  call  it  average, 
and  then  go  down  as  you  think  you  should.   Of  course,  in  my 
opinion,  those  students  that  were  getting  below  Cs  shouldn't 
have  been  in  that  school  after  a  year  because  they  didn't 
belong  there. 

It  was  not  like  a  private  institution  that  had  to  live 
off  of  its  tuition.   Our  tuition  was  extremely  low.   It 
since  has  been  raised  a  great  deal.   It  was  very  low  pur- 
posely, and  I  was  able  to  get  considerable  amounts  of  money 
for  scholarships.   So  we  never  turned  down  a  good  student, 
ever.   I  had  plenty  of  people,  including  myself,  that  would 
pay  scholarships  if  we  didn't  have  the  money  in  the  scholar- 
ship fund.   We'd  work  it  out.   And  I'm  very  proud  of  the 
people  that  came  through  in  that  sense. 

But  the  idea  that  you  can  work  in  an  art  school  for 
producing  people  in  masses  I  don't  agree  with.   I  think 
it's  impossible.   I  don't  think  it's  true  of  anything  else, 
either,  but  just  certainly  in  the  art  field.   If  the  students 
don't  learn  the  fundamental  things  in  the  first  two  years, 
they  have  no  business  to  go  into  the  second  or  the  third 
and  fourth  year.   And  this  is  what  I  think  happened  eventually. 


GOODWIN:   As  part  of  the  MFA  degree,  a  student  worked  on 
a  thesis  or  major  project? 

SHEETS:   Well,  yes.   In  the  final  granting  of  the  degree 
in  their  fourth  year,  the  students  worked  primarily  on 
their  own  projects.   They  were  freed  by  this  time  from 
regular  class  requirements.   They  worked  with  the  head 
instructor  in  each  field.   They  were  almost  apprenticed 
to  that  person.   I  don't  mean  by  that  that  they  worked  on 
the  professor's  work.   I  don't  mean  that  at  all,  but  they 
worked  very  close  to  them.   The  professor  was  expected  to 
give  an  exceeding  amount  of  time — not  just  an  occasional 
passing  criticism  but  to  really  launch  the  students  into 
major  projects  that  would  require  a  year  to  complete.   The 
final  grades  in  the  projects  were  given  by  the  top  staff 
meiabers,  at  the  full  professor  level.   We,  of  course, 
always  had  an  exhibition  of  their  work  at  the  end  of  the 
year.   We  were  graduating  at  that  time,  oh,  the  first  year 
I  think  it  was  two,  and  then  eight,  and  then  sixteen.   I 
think  we  never  did  get  over,  while  I  was  there,  perhaps 
twenty  graduation  students. 

GOODWIN:   What  were  some  of  the  typical  major  projects? 
SHEETS:   Well,  in  sculpture  I  can  remember  there  were  proj- 
ects that  had  heroic  figures  done  sometimes  in  a  very 
exciting  way.   One  young  man  won  a  Prix  de  Rome  from  his 
master's  project.   Some  member  of  the  committee  of  the  Prix 
de  Rome  from  New  York  was  passing  through  and  saw  his 


exhibit  and  said,  "Enter  the  competition,"  and  he  won  it. 
That  was  a  really  great  feeling  on  our  part.   Others  worked 
on  big  sections  of  a  mural  or  maybe  a  group  of  paintings  of 
a  certain  subject  matter  that  they  wanted  to  develop  a  very 
rounded  feeling  about.   It  varied  enormously. 

Oh,  we  had  a  marvelous  graphics  department,  which  I 
didn't  mention.   We  had  Ernest  Freed,  who  had  been  at  Iowa, 
studied  with  [Mauricio]  Lasansky,  who  was  an  excellent  print 
man.   We  had  the  first  really  good  graphic  thing  going  here. 
Then  UCLA,  immediately  following  that,  developed  a  very 
strong  graphic  department  for  a  while.   I  don't  know  what 
they're  doing  now,  but  they  had  a  very,  very  fine  department 
twenty  years  ago.   They  brought  three  or  four  people  out 
that  were  doing  superb  work.   Graphics  was  almost  a  new 
thing  in  Southern  California  at  that  time  as  a  real  division 
in  the  arts,  because  it  required  all  of  the  excitement  and 
background  of  design  and  drawing  and  color  and  all  the  rest 
of  it.   We  had  big  etching  presses.   We  had  lithography. 
They  worked  in  a  variety  of  print  media. 

GOODWIN:   Didn't  you  also  raise  ceramics  to  a  new  level  of 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  think  we  started  that  at  Scripps,  definitely. 
I  thought  when  we  brought  Peter  Voulkos  out  that  we  really 
had  hit  the  jackpot  in  terms  of  a  ceramic  program.   In  my 
life  I 've  never  seen  anything  like  what  Pete  Voulkos  achieved 
in  the  first  two  years  at  Otis.   It  was  incredible.   He  was 


at  his  height,  as  far  as  I'm  personally  concerned,  in  his 
own  work.   His  pots  were  magnificent.   He  could  eat  clay, 
[laughter]   He  had  a  great  spirit,  and  the  students  were 
crazy  about  him.   Then  something  happened.   Pete  became 
disinterested  completely  in  ceramics  as  he  had  practiced 
it  up  to  that  point.   He  almost  rebelled  against  everything 
that  was  skillful.   He  started  just  taking  house  paint  and 
painting  his  pots  if  they  had  a  low  fire  on  them.   He  wasn't 
interested  in  the  high  fire.   He  just  became  a  completely 
different  kind  of  artist  and  immediately  turned  the  depart- 
ment around.   It's  an  unfortunate  fact  that  I  had  to  let 
him  go  after  another  year.   The  department  was  simply  headed 
for  the  rocks.   The  respect  for  the  medium,  for  the  discipline, 
for  what  could  be  done  in  fine  ceramics  just  went  out  the 
window.   And  it  was  tragic.   As  I  understand  it  now,  Pete 
is  turning  back  towards  his  original  view  again.   This  has 
been  a  long  interim,  fifteen  years  at  least.   He's  done  what 
he  calls  sculpture,  these  enormous,  mammoth  things  for  many 
years  now.   I'm  sorry  to  say  they  don't  impress  me.   They're 
not  things  that  have  given  me  the  thrill  that  he  and  lots 
of  art  critics  have  felt  about  them.   But  I've  heard  recently 
from  people  that  know  him  quite  well  that  he's  become  vitally 
interested  in  reestablishing  some  of  his  great  technical 
skill  and  ability  and  imagination.   I  don't  think  anybody's 
ever  done  a  pot  that's  more  vital  and  alive  than  some  of 
those  early  pots.   They're  just  magnificent. 


But  the  ceramic  department  has  gone  on.   It  has  a  very 
good  woman  there  now,  who  is  formerly  a  Scripps  graduate, 
as  a  matter  of  fact,  Whitey  [Helen]  Watson.   She  is  doing  a 
great  job  there  as  the  head  of  the  ceramic  department.   I 
don't  know  enough  about  the  other  departments.   Arthur  Ames, 
I  brought  in  to  head  the  design  for  many  years,  until  he 
reached  the  age  of  retirement,  as  did  Dick  Haines  and 
several  others.   I  don't  really  know  what  the  new  appoint- 
ments are,  but  we  had  a  lot  of  good  students  and  were 
turning  out  a  lot  of  exciting  things  for  a  period  of  many 

GOODWIN:   Were  you  also  involved  in  accelerating  the  gallery 
activities  at  Otis? 

SHEETS:   Oh,  yes.   Well,  I  felt  a  gallery  was  absolutely 
essential  to  the  student  body.   I  felt  that  we  needed  a 
gallery,  and  we  had  a  very  good,  well-planned,  long-range 
program  where  we  brought  what  I  think  was  a  balanced  diet 
to  the  students.   The  curator  for  the  gallery  was  Wayne 
Long.   We  brought  fine  old  things,  great  Oriental  things, 
the  best  we  could  get  in  all  the  fields  of  art.   We  had, 
of  course,  very  exciting  contemporary  exhibitions.   We  had 
a  series  of  brilliant  shows  over  a  period  of  many  years. 
After  I  left,  those  were  continued  for  many  years. 
GOODWIN:   Was  there  a  gallery  before  you  came? 
SHEETS:   No,  no.   We  built  the  gallery.   The  only  building 
that  was  there  before  I  came  was  one  piece  of  the  back 


building,  just  one  small  part  of  it,  and  then  all  the  rest 
of  it  we  built.   The  gallery  program,  I'm  sure,  is  still 
going.   I  don't  know  what  the  score  is  today  at  all.   I 
think  it's  an  important  thing  for  students  not  only  to  see 
fine  things  and  have  a  chance  to  see  them  in  and  out  every 
day,  but  also  to  exhibit  their  own  work  so  they  could  get 
some  sense  of  what  it  was  like  to  be  hung  in  a  gallery. 
We  had  great  student  shows  as  well  as  the  MFA  shows  at  the 
end  of  the  year.   We  always  had  at  least  two  major  shows  a 
year  for  the  students . 

GOODWIN:   Did  the  board  at  Otis  provide  any  funding  from 
the  private  sector? 

SHEETS:   Quite  a  few  members  of  the  board  gave  gifts.   It 
was  not  a  part  of  the  regular  budget.   The  Los  Angeles 
Times,  through  Mrs.  [Norman]  Chandler,  gave  a  good  deal  of 
money  toward  the  library  in  the  beginning.   I  think  if  I 
remember  correctly,  it  was  in  the  neighborhood  of  $5,000 
a  year,  which  meant  a  lot  to  us,  in  addition  to  what  money 
we  could  get  from  the  county.   There  were  other  people, 
private  people,  and  two  or  three  businesses  that  gave  us 
considerable  amounts  of  money,  which  we  could  accept  grace- 
fully for  special  uses:   for  scholarship,  library,  or 
special  exhibitions.   We  needed  help  quite  often.   Several 
of  us  gave  a  great  deal  of  help  to  the  exhibitions  because 
they're  expensive  and  it  took  a  lot  of  time  and  money. 
GOODWIN:   Was  the  Chandler  family  as  actively  involved  as 


it  might  have  been,  considering  that  they're  the  descendants 
of  the  Otis  people? 

SHEETS:   Well,  before  I  accepted  the  position,  I  went  to 
see  Mrs.  Chandler,  Mrs.  Buff  Chandler.   I  told  her  exactly 
what  it  was  that  we  wanted  to  do.   She  had  been  on  the  board 
formerly,  as  I  think  her  husband  had  been  at  one  time.   But 
she  was  not  a  member  of  the  board,  and  I  asked  her  first  of 
all  what  she  thought  of  the  program.   I  must  have  spent  two 
or  three  hours  with  her  at  her  home,  in  those  days  in  Arcadia. 
After  she  showed  a  real  sense  of  enthusiasm,  I  said,  "Well, 
I  would  be  willing  to  go  forward  with  this  program,  now  that 
the  county  has  asked  me  to  do  it,  if  you  would  come  back  on 
the  board."   She  agreed,  and  she  did.   Whoever  the  super- 
visor was — I  can't  remember  which  particular  supervisor 
appointed  her,  but  he  was  delighted  to  do  it  because  they 
were  very  happy  to  have  her  serve.   She  was  right  in  the 
middle  of  getting  the  Music  Center  [of  Los  Angeles  County] 
going  and  was  right  in  the  center  of  all  the  things  in  Los 
Angeles.   For  the  first  three  years,  she  couldn't  have  given 
more  wholehearted  support  than  she  did.   It  was  when  this 
change  of  heart  came  about,  about  USC ,  that  that  support 

Unfortunately  one  of  the  members  of  the  board  that  I 
have  not  mentioned,  who  also  wanted  this  whole  thing  changed 
to  USC,  was  Howard  Ahmanson.   He  was  the  man  I  was  working 
for  primarily  on  the  outside.   He  also  was  a  member  of  the 


use  board.   I  had  to  go  through  the  agony  of  telling  the 
four  of  them  I  thought  they  should  resign  because  they 
made  the  statement  that  they  didn't  feel  if  anything 
happened  to  them  or  they  had  to  go  away  from  the  board 
that  the  school  would  be  able  to  stand  on  its  feet.   They 
did  resign  before  I  left,  and  the  school  did  stand  on  its 
feet.   I'm  very  sorry  that  I  couldn't  have  stayed  on  to 
see  it  stand  on  its  feet  permanently. 

GOODWIN:   Do  you  think  that  Otis  has  a  different  role  today 
than  it  had  in  the  past? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  have  a  strong  feeling  that  when  you  leave 
a  position,  you  should  not  go  back  and  make  people  feel 
that  you're  blowing  hot  breath  on  their  neck.   For  this 
reason,  I  have  not  been  to  Otis.   I  don't  go  to  Otis.   I 
don't  solicit  information  about  what's  going  on  at  Otis. 
I  can't  help  hearing  a  great  many  things,  and  it  doesn't 
seem  to  me  that  the  program  that  we  started  is  being  carried 
out  at  all  at  the  present  time.   I  think  it  has  become  more 
like  a  typical  art  school  or  a  typical  college  art  depart- 
ment, where  they're  interested  primarily  in  teaching  taste 
and  teaching  contemporary  fads  in  art,  rather  than  saying, 
"We're  going  to  give  you  the  background,  if  you  have  the 
ability  to  develop  your  own  concepts  and  your  own  styles." 
This  is  the  way  it  should  be  done.   But  we're  talking  about 
probably  the  most  important  argument  that  there  is  today  in 
the  art  world:   the  difference  between  the  ways  and  ideas 


about  how  you  should  train  an  artist.   I  just  don't  agree 
with  the  present  philosophy.   I'm  afraid  that  Otis  has 
gone  around  and  isn't  any  different  than  most  of  the 
departments.   I  told  you  that  already  about  Scripps. 
GOODWIN:   Right.   I'm  thinking,  though,  that  there  are  so 
many  more  art  departments  everywhere  throughout  Southern 
California.   Cal  Arts  is  reorganized  and  has  its  own  new 
campus,  and  the  same  with  Art  Center  School.   I'm  wondering 
whether  Otis  really  has  a  clear  function  anymore  as  long  as 
it  continues  to  do  what  it  has. 

SHEETS:   I  doubt  it  very  much,  and  I  think  it  will  come  to 
a  head  shortly.   I  was  asked  to  stay  on  the  board  at  Otis, 
which  I  did  for  three  years  at  least  after  I  resigned  as 
director.   It  was  during  this  period  that  I  was  on  the 
board  that  this  big  mix-up  took  place  about  USC.   When 
Mrs.  Chandler  resigned,  her  daughter-in-law  [Marilyn 
("Mitsy")  Chandler]  was  appointed.   Well,  her  background 
in  art  is  not  exactly  the  deepest.   I  do  not  say  this  in 
disrespect  to  her  as  a  person,  but  I  cannot  believe  that 
her  immature  judgment  about  art  and  art  training  should 
have  dominated  the  changes  that  have  taken  place  at  Otis, 
but  they  certainly  have.   She  wanted  a  very  contemporary, 
very  active  expressionist,  modernist — or  whatever  ism  you 
wished — to  become  the  director  and  to  switch  the  school 
over  completely.   I  think  that  this  is  what's  happened. 
They  have  suffered,  really.   The  people  who  had  been  on 


the  original  staff  suffered  through  their  final  years 
before  they  retired,  because  they  were  being  pushed  out 
in  every  way.  They  became  unhappy,  and  certainly  the 
school  doesn't  reflect  any  of  the  original  direction. 
Then  after  Mitsy  Chandler  had  succeeded  in  completely 
destroying  the  old  concepts,  she  resigned.  I  think  it's 
very  tragic. 

GOODWIN:   Was  there  anybody  in  the  county  government  who 
was  particularly  sympathetic  to  the  idea  of  the  county 
supporting  an  art  school,  other  than  Supervisor  Ford? 
Was  there  mostly  a  great  deal  of  hostility? 
SHEETS:   I  never  felt  that  people  were  at  all  hostile 
toward  me,  but  I  felt  that  they  questioned  very  much  the 
idea  that  the  county  should  be  in  the  business  of  running 
an  art  school.   Arthur  Will  was  very  much  for  it.   He  was 
a  man  that  had  some  background.   He  knew  that  cities  reflect 
the  state  of  mind  of  the  people,  and  if  you  do  not  train 
artists,  you  don't  train  designers,  you  don't  train  creative 
people,  your  city  isn't  going  to  be  creative.   It's  just 
inevitable.   Through  Arthur  Will's  support  and  John  Anson 
Ford  and  some  of  the  other  supervisors,  not  including  Kenny 
Hahn  and  one  or  two  others  who  were  against  anything  except 
their  own  pet  projects,  we  had  some  very  strong  support  for 
many  years.   Even  Mr.  Ford's  successor  [Ernest  E.  Debs]  was 
very  strongly  behind  us.   A  list  of  the  members  of  the  board 
would  clearly  point  out  the  fact  that  the  board  was  very 


divided.   [Warren  M. ]  Dorn  was  very  much  for  the  County 
Art  Institute.   The  man  at  Long  Beach  [Burton  W.  Chace] 
who  died  was  very  much  behind  us.   I  think  at  first  Kenny 
Hahn  was  the  only  one  that  really  picked  on  the  idea. 
Then  that  seeped  down  through. 

The  civil  service  people  were  very  interesting  to 
me  because  I  had  to  spend  a  great  deal  of  time  with  them 
to  get  them  to  understand  the  kind  of  appointments  we  had 
to  have.   At  first  they  were  pretty  cursory  in  their 
approach  to  the  problem,  but  as  I  spent  time  with  them,  I 
found  them  not  only  quite  sympathetic  but  I  think  we  had 
extremely  strong  support  from  them.   When  they  understood 
the  level  that  we  were  trying  to  seek,  they  couldn't 
attach  that  to  just  some  little  talk  about  art.   The  moment 
it  became  a  matter  of  how  much  real  background  and  experience 
and  what  the  person  had  been  doing  with  his  life  in  relation 
to  society,  they  understood  that  very  quickly.   I  felt,  in 
contrast  to  many  people,  that  the  civil  service  people  were 
among  our  strongest  supporters. 

I  used  to,  of  course,  go  to  lunch  with  the  heads  of 
all  the  county  departments  every  three  months  at  an  off- 
the-record  lunch.   I  enjoyed  thoroughly  meeting  the  fifty- 
two  department  heads.   No  supervisors  were  present.   Arthur 
Will,  as  chief  administrator  of  the  county,  was  there 
always  and  the  man  that  followed  him.   There  was  strong 
respect  within  the  group  of  department  heads  for  what  we 


were  doing  in  art.   I  talked  to  them  many  times  at  their 
request  about  our  program,  and  they  were  really  enthusiastic. 
The  decline  in  support  of  Otis  by  the  county  didn't  happen 
from  any  pressure,  really,  from  the  county.   I  think  it 
happened  just  because  the  board  of  governors  of  the  institute 
were  lazy  and  felt  that  they  wanted  to  dump  it  onto  somebody 
else's  lap. 

GOODWIN:   I've  been  trying  to  compare  in  my  own  mind  the 
experience  Otis  had  with  county  government  and  the  exper- 
ience that  the  County  Art  Museum  has  had,  because  I  know 
that  in  some  sense  the  art  museum  has  been  a  stepchild  of 
county  government,  and  it  just  doesn't  fit. 
SHEETS:   It  doesn't,  and  the  Otis  Art  Institute  didn't 
until  I  started  this  new  program.   While  that  new  program 
was  going  full  blast,  there  wasn't  a  problem.   As  the 
program  seemed  to  slip  away  and  down  into  the  ordinary 
kind  of  a  program,  then  it  happened  again.   I  can  under- 
stand that. 

I  think  you  do  know  that  I  was  on  the  Cal  Arts  board 
when  it  was  organized.   Of  course,  here's  a  case  where  the 
county  isn't  interfering  at  all  because  it  was  all  private 
money.   We  didn't  talk  about  this  before,  did  we? 

SHEETS:   Tragically,  Walt  Disney  died  at  exactly  the  wrong 
moment.   Of  course  it's  wrong  for  anyone  to  die,  I  suppose, 
at  any  moment.   But  as  far  as  the  school  was  concerned,  he 


had  built  up  so  much  feeling  about  this  school  and  had 
given  so  much  attention  to  it  and  had  stimulated  a  lot 
of  his  friends  into  believing  in  this  thing,  and  he  died. 
On  the  first  board,  there  were  only  one  or  two  of  us  that 
really  had  any  sense  of  what  an  art  school  was  about.   The 
rest  of  the  people  were  nice  people,  very  good  people. 
Some  of  them  had  been  involved  with  motion  pictures, 
financing  motion  pictures.   Others  were  technically 
involved  with  motion  pictures.   Others  were  very  serious, 
public-minded,  public-spirited  people.   But  an  art  school, 
that's  something  else. 

Walt's  brother  [Roy  Disney]  was  an  amazing  man.   He 
had  the  most  marvelous  spirit,  particularly  toward  Walt. 
The  whole  thing  had  been  as  much  his  doing  as  Walt's, 
really,  the  Walt  Disney  Studio.   But  the  older  brother 
felt  that  he  didn't  ever  want  a  kind  of  a  Warner  Brothers 
title  to  the  organization,  so  it  was  always  called  the  Walt 
Disney  Studios.   But  Walt  could  never  have  done  the  job  of 
creating  the  tremendous  studio  that  he  did  had  it  not  been 
for  his  brother.   So  when  Walt  died  so  suddenly,  and  as 
his  brother  was  ten  years  older,  he  became  somewhat 
frightened  at  the  idea  that  something  might  happen  to  him 
before  this  dream  of  Walt's  was  realized.   So  the  building 
was  pushed  through  far  too  rapidly.   It  had  been  planned 
and  discussed  by  an  architect  and  by  Walt  for  years,  but 
then  there  was  no  one  there  to  really  curb  the  architect. 


Suddenly  the  plans  became  infinitely  more  important  than 
the  program  or  the  kinds  of  students  they  were  going  to 

The  tragedy,  as  I  look  at  it,  is  that  here  was  a  great 
idea,  with  a  tremendous  financial  backing,  that  just  had  to 
have  a  birth  not  as  a  normal  six-  to  nine-pound  child,  but 
as  an  800-student-body ,  full-grown  institution.   The  entire 
act  of  finding  staff,  searching  for  heads  of  departments-- 
and  the  whole  thing  was  done  without  real  regard  to  clear  ob- 
jectives of  what  Walt  had  envisaged,  which  was  a  very 
simple  idea.   He  said,  "As  a  man  that's  been  involved  with 
motion  pictures,  which  is  a  great  media,  where  all  of  the 
arts  are  used,  where  we  have  music,  writers,  cinematographers , 
cameramen,  and  all  the  different  crafts,  I  know,  obviously, 
that  we  can  hire  experts,  but  they're  experts  who  don't 
know  anything  about  the  other  experts  and  what  they're 
really  trying  to  accomplish.   Even  the  director  doesn't 
always  know  how  to  pull  these  things  together."   The  way 
he  described  it  was,  "If  we  had  a  school  where  we  would  set 
the  level  right  at  the  top  and  wouldn't  let  anyone  in  that 
didn't  have  some  real  ability,  where  we  had  schools  of 
music,  of  drama,  of  cinematography,  of  dance,  and  of  the 
graphic  and  applied  arts,  all  under  one  roof,  as  the 
students  walk  from  one  class  to  another,  passing  art 
exhibits  of  students  and  others,  they're  hearing  music, 
and  they're  living  in  the  dormitories  with  people  that 


are  in  all  the  arts."   The  way  he  put  it  was,  "Who  knows 
what  kind  of  a  form  will  eventually  come  out  of  such  an 
experience  in  the  creation  of  a  whole  new  concept  of 
cinematography  and  the  motion  picture  as  we  know  it  today?" 
Well,  that  was  his  dream.   Though  I  said  it  and  a  few 
other  people  who  knew  Walt  said  it  very  strongly,  over  and 
over  again,  that's  a  hard  thing  for  people  that  don't  under- 
stand to  really  comprehend  the  importance  of.   So  the  first 
thing  they  did  was  to  find  a  man  who  was  very  excellent  in 
the  field  of  drama  and  who  had  had  a  lot  of  college  and 
university  administrative  ability  and  experience,  and  they 
hired  him.   Then  he  listened  real  hard  to  each  of  the 
people  that  he  wanted  to  hire  in  the  various  fields,  and 
there  was  absolutely  no  unity  to  the  concept  at  all.   On 
top  of  that,  he  hired  a  dean  that  just  put  a  ring  in  the 
director's  nose  and  jerked  him  at  will  all  over  the  place. 
The  school  got  off  to  such  a  bad  start  that  it  almost  blew 
up  in  the  second  year,  after  spending  over  $20  million. 
Another  terrible  tragedy  was  that  the  board  sat  there  and 
voted  to  spend  about  $17  million  of  the  $20  million  for 
capital  expenditure,  which  made  no  sense  at  all.   It  did 
build  buildings  that  could  house  800  people,  but  it  didn't 
provide  most  of  the  vital  things:   endowment  for  the  staff, 
endowment  for  the  program,  to  assure  it  in  any  sense.   It's 
been  a  pickup  game  ever  since.   Even  though  the  family  has 
put  another  $20  million  in,  it  still  needs  a  great  deal  of 


money  for  scholarships,  for  staff,  and  for  all  the  other 
things  that  are  involved  in  running  a  big  institution. 

Now,  if  they  had  started  out  in  a  totally  different 
way,  if  they  had  started  out  with,  say,  two  or  three 
disciplines,  maybe  an  art  school  and  perhaps  a  music  school 
or  maybe  one  more,  and  built  a  part  of  a  master  plan,  and 
had  perhaps  twenty-five  absolutely  top  students,  the  most 
brilliant  young  people  they  could  find,  of  any  age--I  don't 
give  a  damn  how  old  they  are — and  start  a  school  on  quality, 
and  then  in  another  three  years  or  four  years  added  another 
area,  and  had  grown  like  that — the  money  would  have  been 
there  drawing  a  tremendous  income — they  could  have  had  a 
school  of  strength.   It's  a  tragedy  to  see  people  hiring 
people  to  run  any  department  who  don't  really  know  what  it 
is  that  that  department  is  supposed  to  do. 

I  finally  resigned  from  the  board  less  than  a  year  ago. 
I  spent,  altogether,  about  eight  years,  some  of  those  years 
discussing  the  school  with  Walt  Disney  and  with  other  people, 
Long  before  he  even  wanted  to  have  a  board  formed,  we  spent 
a  tremendous  amount  of  time  talking  about  this  project.   It 
was  very  clear  in  his  mind  and  certainly  in  my  mind  what  he 
had  wanted  to  create .   I  saw  them  about  to  hire  a  man  to 
head  the  art  department  as  bad  as  the  one  who  had  been 
there  before,  and  it  became  almost  a  confrontation  problem, 
again,  between  myself  and  the  director,  who  I  have  a  great 
deal  of  admiration  for.   I  think  he's  a  very  bright  man. 


but  I  don't  think  anyone  else  I've  ever  met  can  know  all 
there  is  to  know  about  music  and  cinematography  and  drama 
and  the  graphic  and  applied  arts  and  the  dance.   There's 
so  much  theory  mixed  into  all  of  it.   I  interviewed  one 
of  the  prospective  appointees  for  head  of  the  art  depart- 
ment, and  I  thought  he  was  not  only  a  charming  man  but  that 
he  had  a  tremendous  amount  of  feeling  about  art,  so  it 
wasn't  a  personal  distaste  for  him  on  my  part.   But  when 
I  asked  him  some  very  simple  questions  about  how  he  felt 
a  department  should  be  organized,  what  he  felt  were  the 
basic  requirements  to  insure  a  proper  end  product,  it  was 
the  same  old  laissez-faire  attitude:   bring  them  in  here; 
let  them  get  around  the  people;  it  will  all  work  out.   And 
it  doesn't  work  out.   I  think  if  Walt  were  alive  today,  he 
would  be  shocked  as  hell  at  what  the  institute  is  doing. 

Now,  I  think  this  is  not  as  true,  certainly,  in  music. 
I  have  a  very  strong  feeling  that  music  is  being  well  taught 
there.   I  think  the  drama  department,  after  many  difficult 
starts  and  stops,  is  moving  forward  very  strongly.   The 
dance  has  always  been  good.   They've  had  excellent  people. 
But  now  you're  talking  about  disciplines  where  there's  no 
bull  involved.   If  you  can't  dance,  if  you  can't  handle 
your  feet  and  your  body,  you  aren't  going  to  function. 
GOODWIN:   There's  a  built-in  discipline. 
SHEETS:   It's  just  a  built-in  discipline.   Certainly  in 
music,  unless  you  know  something  about  your  instrument 


and  the  structure  of  music — sure,  some  people  read  by  ear, 
but  it's  hardly  what  you  build  a  school  around.   In  art  it 
just  seems  to  be  the  most  frustrating  thing  in  the  world 
to  me  that  anyone  who  feels  they've  spent  enough  time  in 
the  vicinity  of  art  are  automatically  experts  who  know 
everything  that  needs  to  be  known  about  how  you  train 
people  to  find  out  who  they  are.   You  can't  find  out  who 
you  are  until  you  have  enough  discipline  back  of  you. 
The  fear  of  discipline  now  is  frightening  to  me  as  the 
philosophy  upon  which  to  build  an  art  school. 

These  are  strange  days  where  education  can  be  so 
involved  in  plain  theory  and  not  really  excited  about 
where  this  guy's  going,  Where's  that  gal  going,  what's 
she  going  to  do  when  she  gets  out  of  here?   They  don't 
seem  to  care.   I  can't  believe  that  that's  education. 
GOODWIN:   You  mentioned  on  one  occasion  that  you're  now  a 
board  member  of  the  Art  Center  School. 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I've  just  become  a. board  member.   I  haven't 
had  my  first  board  meeting  yet. 

GOODWIN:   Oh.   So  you  can't  compare  the  experience  there 
to  Cal  Arts? 

SHEETS:   No,  except  by  observation  and  by  knowing  members 
of  the  board.   I  think  Art  Center  could  easily  fall  into 
this  pattern  because  the  pressure  is  there  from  students, 
though  not  as  much  as  it  was  a  few  years  back.   But  many 
students  today  would  rather  be  very  clever  and  look  very 


contemporary  and  look  very  much  with-it  than  to  feel  that 
they  want  to  get  down  to  the  gristle  and  bone  and  find  out 
about  something.   But  I  think  the  tendency  of  the  faculty 
is,  as  I've  watched  it  over  the  forty  years  of  fifty  years 
I've  been  involved,  that  as  an  artist  matures  and  develops 
a  great  deal  more  taste,  a  great  deal  more  knowledge  of 
art,  a  great  deal  more  feeling  about  art,  if  they've  grown 
and  continue  to  grow,  it's  very  hard  for  them  to  want  to 
go  back  and  teach  the  fundamentals.   They're  bored  by  it. 
They  feel  like  that  is  stepping  backwards  to  them.   So 
they  begin  to  twist  the  drawings  or  the  paintings,  what- 
ever it  is,  into  the  kind  of  formula  that  they're  interested 
in.   The  kind  of  taste  that  they  have,  they  like  to  impose 
upon  students.   Now,  that's  a  dreadful  mistake,  in  my 
opinion  because  I  don't  think  anybody  is  so  omnipotent 
that  they  should  impose  their  taste  on  their  students. 
Basically  what's  wrong  is  it  doesn't  give  a  student  the 
full  set  of  tools  from  which  he  can  operate  with  his  par- 
ticular quality  of  mind  and  particular  kind  of  perception 
and  insight  and  then  fully  express  himself.   Students  that 
I've  known  over  the  years,  whether  they  were  in  my  class 
or  anyone  else's  classes,  who  really  learned  to  understand 
structure  and  other  qualities,  I  don't  have  to  be  worried 
about.   If  they  have  any  art  in  them,  it's  going  to  come 
out.   You  can't  impose  art,  except  superficially.   About 
the  time  they  get  out  of  school  they  begin  to  get  a  little 


bit  sick  of  art.   After  a  couple  of  years  of  frustration 
and  no  chance  to  move  ahead,  they  drop  it.   And  that's 
wrong.   That's  absolutely  wrong. 

GOODWIN:   Does  a  good  art  teacher  necessarily  have  to  be 
a  prominent  artist? 

SHEETS:   Not  necessarily.   I  think  that  I've  known  art 
teachers  who  are  extraordinary  teachers,  but  I  don't  think 
they're  theoreticians.   I  don't  think  they're  people  who 
have  just  studied  and  looked  at  art  history.   I'm  speaking 
now  on  the  applied  side,  strictly.   I  mean  there's  a  com- 
plete world  of  art  history  and  philosophy,  which  you  have 
your  degree  in.   I  don't  have  to  explain  that  to  you. 
There's  no  quarrel  between  what  you  have  had  as  a  back- 
ground and  what  I'm  talking  about. 
GOODWIN:   Right,  I  understand  that. 

SHEETS:   I'm  talking  about  a  young  person  who  says,  "I 
would  like  to  be  a  practicing  artist  in  my  lifetime."   Now, 
I  know  teachers--I ' ve  had  some.   I  think  Herbert  Jepson  was 
one  of  the  best  examples  that  I  know.   Herbert  kept  avoiding 
painting  and  kept  avoiding  making  even  exciting  drawings, 
which  he  had  obviously  the  ability  to  do.   But  he  became 
so  involved  with  teaching  that  he  did  not  become  a  dis- 
tinguished artist  in  his  own  right.   But  as  a  teacher,  I 
think  he  was  one  of  the  most  effective  I've  known.   He 
taught  what  he  knew,  and  he  knew  it  well,  and  he  taught 
it  with  a  great  deal  of  taste.   Now,  you  can't  ask  more 


from  anyone  than  that.   I  think  drawing  should  be  taught 
with  good  taste.   But  if  you're  trying  to  push  taste  out 
beyond  knowing  how,  that's  bad.   He  didn't  do  that.   He 
taught  damn  well.   I've  known  painters  who  can  teach  good, 
solid,  basic  discipline  that  frees  a  person.   But  it's 
just  too  bad  that  we  have  to  have  so  many  aesthetes  running 
around,  all  over  hell,  trying  to  teach  the  basic  disciplines. 
GOODWIN:   Well,  do  you  think  far  too  many  art  professors 
are  bored  being  professors,  and  they  only  teach  as  a  means 
to  an  end? 

SHEETS:   I  think  they  teach  it  partly  as  an  escape,  because 
they  can't  make  it  on  the  front  line.   I  think  that  what 
you  said  is  also  true.   I  think  that  they  are  bored  with 
the  idea  that  they  have  to  do  it  to  make  a  living.   They 
probably  should  thank  their  stars--although  I  don't  think 
it's  good  for  society — that  they  have  a  job  because  they 
couldn't  make  it  otherwise,  and  that's  what's  wrong.   Why 
should  people  teach  who  can't  produce?   Now,  I  don't  mean 
that  an  artist  necessarily  has  to  work  outside  professionally 
if  he's  a  fine  teacher.   There's  a  tremendous  need  for  a 
teacher,  and  great  teachers.   I  think  it's  just  as  important 
to  be  a  great  teacher  certainly  as  it  is  to  be  anything 
else--and  maybe  more  important  in  many  ways  because  you 
can  touch  more  lives.   But  I  don't  think  they  should 
expect  to  teach  if  they  can't  perform  themselves.   This 
is  what  I'm  talking  about.   This  is  what's  happening. 


And,  even  at  Art  Center,  I  gather  from  talking  to  some 
of  the  old  staff  members  over  there  that  I  have  known  for 
thirty-five  and  forty  years--they 're  very  concerned  about 
this  very  thing  that's  happening  to  a  degree  in  Art  Center. 
Now,  it  hasn't  happened  in  Art  Center  in  the  same  way  be- 
cause Art  Center  is  so  thoroughly  oriented  to  going  right 
into  commercial  design  and  into  industrial  design  that 
there's  not  much  chance  for  nonsense.   But  if  some  of  the 
teachers  are  going  to  teach  less  thoroughly  by  becoming  a 
little  more  concerned  only  with  the  aesthetic,  then  it 
irritates  the  hell  out  of  some  of  these  people  that  really 
know  what  they're  doing.   That's  happening  because  a  lot 
of  those  people  of  this  generation  that  are  teaching  have 
never  had  that  serious  kind  of  training. 

GOODWIN:   Does  Art  Center  represent  the  opposite  extreme, 
compared  to  a  school  like  Otis  today,  in  that  it  over- 
emphasizes the  commercial  viewpoint  and  doesn't  necessarily 
emphasize  fundamentals. 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  think  Art  Center  does  emphasize  fundamen- 
tals of  technical  disciplines.   I  think  that  they  are 
stressing,  a  little  more  all  the  time,  aesthetic  under- 
standing, and  certainly  design  understanding,  which  is 
highly  important.   It  is  the  design  that  is  the  aesthetic 
side.   But  right  now  when  a  student  or  a  family  having  a 
young  student  comes  to  me  and  asks,  "Where  shall  I  go?" 
or  "Where  shall  I  send  my  child?"  I'm  almost  forced  to 


suggest  Art  Center  today.   I  have  to  make  it  clear  that 
though  it's  certainly  oriented  definitely  to  the  commercial 
and  the  industrial,  at  least  you  get  some  basic  training 
there,  which  I  can't  tell  you  you're  going  to  get  over  here 
or  over  here  or  over  here.   That's  a  lousy  compromise.   It 
shouldn't  have  to  be  that  way. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  end  this  sequence  on  an  upbeat  note.   How 
do  you  possibly  teach  artists  imagination,  divorced  from 
technical  skill? 

SHEETS:   No,  I  don't  think  you  can  teach  imagination.   I 
think  that  you  can  point  out  very  clearly  that  the  artists 
of  the  world  who  amount  to  anything  and  who've  lived  through 
the  various  periods  of  art  and  who  continue  to  be  important 
are  loaded  with  feeling  and  imagination.   That's  the  reason 
that  their  work  lasts.   It  isn't  because  they  have  only  the 
technical  skills.   Real  imagination  is  freed,  if  you  study 
the  history  of  art,  by  the  most  disciplined  process  of 
learning  how  to  observe  and  to  perceive.   The  more  one 
studies  the  facts  of  life  and  the  realities  of  structure 
and  the  unbelievable  nuances  of  color  in  life  in  every 
aspect,  the  more  your  imagination  has  a  chance  to  grow  and 
to  blossom.   You  cannot  conjure  up  what  you  haven't  exper- 
ienced.  There's  no  way,  in  my  opinion.   The  more  you  dig 
into  a  subject,  the  more  you  begin  to  let  your  mind  go  and 
fly.   It's  the  most  wonderful  thing  to  me  to  watch,  as  I 
have  watched  so  many  young  people,  who  have  gone  through 


what  looks  like  these  disciplines,  and  suddenly  they're 
moving  way  out  into  space  over  there  because  this  direction 
made  it  possible  for  them  to  do  that,  this  direction  of 
digging  into  the  facts.   You  can't  teach  people  to  paint 
imaginatively  if  they  can't  paint.   You  can  say,  "You 
mustn't  think  that  after  you've  painted  every  eyelash  on 
the  butterfly  and  petal  on  the  blossom,  that  that's  the 
answer.   If  you  can  do  that,  then  maybe  you  can  do  some- 
thing, if  you  have  any  ideas.   Or  if  you've  got  some 
feeling  or  if  you  have  some  imagination,  you  can  express 
it."   I  mean,  that's  the  way  it  has  to  be  put  to  them, 
because  that's  the  way  it  ends  up  being.   People  in  art 
who  have  had  great  imagination  are  people  who  weren't  ever 
stopped  for  one  minute  because  they  didn't  know  how  to 
paint  or  draw  or  design.   They're  people  who  were  masters 
of  their  craft,  and  that's  why  their  imagination  can  soar, 
[tape  recorder  turned  off] 

GOODWIN:   We're  going  to  discuss  mural  painting  now.   If 
I  remember  correctly,  your  first  exposure  was  as  a  student 
with  Tolles  Chamberlain  at  Chouinard. 

SHEETS:   Right.   I  didn't  even  know  what  the  word  mural 
meant.   I  didn't  know  it  was  as  simple  as  a  thing  like  a 
wall.   But  when  Tolles  Chamberlain  stimulated  the  interest 
of  several  of  us  in  the  murals  of  the  past,  we  began  to 
experiment.   We  had  an  old  back  wall  where  we  painted 
pretty  bad  attempts  toward  mural  painting  right  there  in 


the  school.   Then  a  series  of  things  just  seemed  to  open 
up.   I  was  given  a  chance  to  do  some  very  large  panels  in 
a  new  beach  club  down  south  of  Long  Beach — I  guess  it's 
Seal  Beach  now.   I  was  very  excited  and  talked  Phil  Dike 
into  helping  me  with  these  murals,  and  we  did  about  ten 
panels.   I  guess  it  was  really  one  of  the  first  jobs, 
although  I'd  done  one,  I  think,  in  the  YMCA  in  Pasadena 
before  that  and  two  or  three  other  small  murals.   This  was 
the  first  thing  that  was,  in  a  real  public  sense,  a  mural 
commission.   We  worked  in  oil  on  canvas  because  that  was 
about  the  only  thing  we  knew  in  those  days. 

Then,  just  after  the  crash  of  '29 — I  had  come  back 
from  Europe  and  I  was  happily  married  at  that  point,  1930 — 
I  was  given  a  very  large  commission  to  do  some  murals  for 
the  Hollywood  Savings  and  Loan.   That  was  a  savings  and 
loan  that  was  part  of  the  great  Beesmeyer  group.   The 
Hollywood  Bank,  the  Hollywood  Savings  and  Loan,  and  several 
other  big  financial  institutions  were  part  of  a  big  combine, 
As  laws  have  been  passed  since  that  time,  it  would  be 
impossible  to  have  such  failure.   I  worked  very  hard  on 
those  murals  and  hired  three  or  four  men  to  work  with  me, 
because  there  was  a  time  problem  involved  and  the  panels 
were  large.   It  was  the  whole  history  of  the  motion  picture, 
which  of  course  was  in  its  infancy  to  a  degree  in  those 
days.   But  we  painted  them  as  they  were  then.   The  week 
before  I  finished  the  murals,  the  crash  really  came,  and 


not  only  was  the  Hollywood  Savings  and  Loan  unable  to  pay 
my  bill,  which  was  about  8  0  percent  of  the  whole  contract — 
and  I'd  been  paying  labor  out  for  months  with  what  little 
I  could  get  together  in  those  days — but  my  bank  account  was 
in  the  Hollywood  Bank.   What  little  money  I  had  in  the 
Hollywood  Bank  was  frozen,  all  the  same  day.   If  you  don't 
think  that  was  a  dark  Friday  ....   But,  in  any  case,  I 
owned  the  murals,  and  they  were  pretty  valueless  to  me.   I 
remember  to  this  day  that  two  of  the  fellows  that  worked 
for  me  sued  me  for  the  last  $200  apiece  that  they  had 
coming.   And  they  knew  that  I  didn't  have  the  $200,  not 
having  been  paid  for  the  job.   Long  before  it  ever  went  to 
court,  I  borrowed  the  money  and  paid  them  off,  but  I  thought 
it  was  a  really  strange  thing  when  they  knew  the  whole 
circumstance . 

Then  I  had  a  chance  to  do  three  big  frescoes  in  the 
South  Pasadena  Junior  High  School.   It  was  the  most 
beautiful  new  school,  designed  by  Powell  and  Powell.   The 
principal  of  that  high  school  (Derwood  Baker)  was  an 
extremely  forward-looking  person  and  knew  something  about 
me  and  something  about  the  fact  that  I'd  painted  some 
murals.   He  decided  he  would  like  to  raise  the  money 
privately  to  paint  two  frescoes  in  a  courtyard.   I  had 
done  this  work  with  Siqueiros  that  I  mentioned  earlier 
and  had  done  a  few  small  frescoes.   But  I  worked  practically 
every  night  for  a  whole  year,  with  one  assistant.   We  did 


our  own  plastering,  and  we  did  these  two  big  panels.   We 
did  one  on  agriculture;  we  did  one  on  industry.   They're 
all  figurative  and  very  large.   It  was  probably  technically 
one  of  the  best  things  I  ever  did  in  my  life.   They  were 
true  fresco,  true  Italian  fresco — all  transparent,  no  white 
except  the  white  in  the  plaster.   We'd  had  a  very  exciting 
time  doing  them,  and  I  think  the  students  were  tremendously 
excited  and  moved  by  these  murals  because  they  saw  them 
actually  emerge  slowly.   Every  night  they  saw  a  little  bit 
more.   As  you  know,  in  frescoes  when  you  paint,  you  have 
to  plaster  the  wall  with  a  very  dry  plaster,  and  you  can 
work  on  it  up  to  a  certain  point,  the  point  when  it 
oxidizes;  then  it  will  no  longer  receive  water  or  the  pig- 
ment, and  you're  through.   If  you  aren't  through,  you  have 
to  scratch  off  what  you've  done.   Well,  we  had  quite  a  few 
bad  evenings  during  the  rainy  season,  although  we  had  it 
covered  well  enough  with  canvases  and  so  forth.   We  could 
keep  fairly  warm,  but  it  was  a  pretty  cool  experience 
working  out  there  night  after  night.   We'd  start  right 
after  a  normal  day's  work  and  work  until  midnight  or  two 
in  the  morning  for  almost  a  year. 

The  saddest  thing  happened  after  that.   They  were  so 
well  received,  and  the  students  and  everybody  liked  them. 
They  were  well  known  at  that  time — we're  talking  about 
1930  and  '31,  because  it  was  before  I  went  to  Scripps. 
I  mentioned  to  the  head  custodian  of  the  school,  a 


marvelous  elderly  man,  that  there  was  a  way  of  water- 
proofing fresco  if  it  did  get  a  tremendous  amount  of  water 
on  it.   I  had  read  about  it,  but  I  had  never  tried  it.   He 
was  worried  about  the  elements,  whether  the  rain  and  so 
forth  would  do  it  damage  over  a  period  of  time.   It  was 
on  the  north  wall,  and  it  was  enclosed  in  a  court,  and 
though  there  wasn't  much  of  an  overhang,  I  don't  really 
think  anything  would  have  really  eventually  hurt  them. 
But  I  had  read  in  a  very  proper  book  that  if  you  took  pure 
castile  soap  and  made  a  certain  solution — practically  non- 
existent as  far  as  soap  was  concerned;  it's  just  like  1:500 
or  l:1000--if  that's  painted  on  the  mural,  that  that  produced 
a  permanent  waterproofing  process  without  in  any  way  touching 
the  color,  or  hurting  it,  or  making  it  in  any  way  other  than 
the  way  it  was.   But  I  said  that's  something  we  should  con- 
sider maybe  five  years  from  now,  if  there's  any  sense  of 
this  thing  happening. 

Well,  without  ever  discussing  it  with  the  principal 
or  with  me,  and  with  the  best  of  intentions,  he  destroyed 
the  murals.   He  mixed  a  very  heavy  solution  that  must  have 
looked  like  poster  paint  when  he  put  it  on,  and  it  completely 
destroyed  the  murals.   It  looked  like  someone  had  been  pouring 
milk  on  them  for  months.   The  color  was  destroyed.   You'd 
get  certain  images  through,  but  it  was  absolutely  beyond 
belief.   I  didn't  know  this.   I  never  heard  a  thing  about 
it.   The  principal  changed,  and  he  unfortunately  didn't 


call  me.   Because  if  he'd  called  me,  I  don't  know  whether 
there  was  anything  we  could  have  done,  but  there  might 
have  been  something  we  could  have  done.   But  he  didn't  call 
me.   Some  general  custodian  of  all  the  buildings  decided 
the  thing  was  just  to  paint  over  them,  so  they  painted  over 
them  with  cement  paint,  and  I  didn't  know  that  for  fifteen 
years.   It  was  fifteen  years  later  that  they  called  me  back 
and  asked  if  there  was  any  way  of  removing  this  cement. 

Well,  we  had  two  experts  dig  into  it,  and  we  found 
that  even  though  we  could  remove  the  cement  probably  with 
a  great  deal  of  cost,  by  picking  at  it  with  a  small  scalpel 
for  months,  that  the  thing  had  been  so  destroyed  underneath 
that  there  was  no  value  in  it.   That  was  a  real  disappoint- 
ment, and  the  terrible  thing  is  that  I  only  have  two  very 
poor  little  black-and-white  photographs  of  these  things 
even  as  a  matter  of  record.   That  was  a  sad  experience, 
and  I  never  had  any  other  like  that. 

After  that  experience  I  started  painting  murals  in 
various  banks.   When  the  big  fair  ^(Golden  Gate  Exposition, 
1940]  was  held  in  San  Francisco,  just  before  the  war 
started,  I  did  something  like  20,000  square  feet  of  murals 
for  four  different  projects.   One  major  job  was  for  the 
exposition  itself.   I  did  six  enormous  panels,  with  big 
arches  at  the  top,  sort  of  a  history  of  San  Francisco  idea. 
Then  I  did  two  jobs,  one  for  the  L.A.  Chamber  of  Commerce, 
a  huge  mural;  I  think  it  was  100  feet  long  and  30  feet  high. 


It  went  around  a  half  of  a  circle  in  a  building,  in  a  huge 
room.   I  can't  even  remember  all  of  the  ones  we  did  because 
most  of  those  were  taken  down  after  the  exposition.   Though 
they  are  placed  somewhere,  I  don't  know  where  they  are. 
They  were  all  on  canvas  and  mounted  so  they  could  be 
removed . 

But  that's  when  I  really  discovered  the  problem  of 
managing  a  lot  of  people  who  were  helping  me  and  running 
into  labor  problems  for  the  first  time.   I  got  up  there  to 
hang  them,  and  they  wouldn't  let  us  touch  them.   We  had  to 
go  through  the  labor  unions  in  San  Francisco,  which  were 
very  tough  compared  to  anything  down  here  in  those  days. 
That's  now  reached  here,  so  we're  getting  into  the  same 
thing  all  over.   But  it  was  a  great  experience  because 
there  was  about  two-and-a-half  years'  work  where  I  was 
deeply  involved  with  every  facet  of  planning,  designing, 
executing,  business  relations,  labor  union  relations,  and 
then  physically  getting  everything  up.   It  was  a  good 
experience . 


JANUARY  6,    1977 

GOODWIN:   Diego  Rivera  was  working  for  the  San  Francisco 

SHEETS:   Yes,  he  did  the  big  job  at  the  stock  exchange, 
and  also  he  did  a  beautiful  panel  at  the  San  Francisco 
Art  Institute.   Have  you  ever  seen  that? 
GOODWIN:   Yes,  it's  thrilling. 

SHEETS:   That's  a  beautiful  painting.   That  was  at  his  best 
period,  that  and  the  things  earlier,  the  ones  I  told  you 
about  (or  we  discussed  at  least) ,  the  Palace  of  Education 
in  Mexico,  which  very  few  people  see.   It's  the  most 
extensive  job  he  ever  did,  except  that  final  one  in  the 
main  palace  [Palacio  Nacional] ,  but  that  became  more 
illustrative.   In  the  Palace  of  Education,  there  must  be 
four  major  courts  and  at  least  twenty  panels  in  each  court. 
They're  probably  twenty-five  feet  high  and  ten  or  twelve 
feet  wide.   They're  magnificent.   They're  the  most  brilliant 
things  in  color  I've  ever  seen  him  do  and  extremely  beautiful 
fresco  technique  all  the  way  through.   He's  an  amazing 
artist.   The  last  things  don't  reflect  that  at  all.   But 
the  fact  that  the  Mexicans  did  come  up  here  and  Orozco 
came  up  and  did  Prometheus  at  Pomona  College  gave  a  boost 
to  the  whole  idea  of  painting  murals.   And  of  course  the 
PWA  project  during  the  Depression  was  of  great  importance. 


We  haven't  discussed  that,  have  we? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  was  on  the  committee  in  charge  of  the  PWA 
project  in  Southern  California,  and  that  was  a  great  exper- 
ience for  me.   I  was  young,  but  I  was  asked  by  Edward  Bruce 
in  Washington,  who  was  a  painter  that  I  had  known;  along 
with  Merle  Armitage ,  who  was  the  chairman;  and  Dal  Hatfield, 
who  was  my  dealer.   But  that  isn't  the  reason  I  was  asked 
to  serve.   Bruce  knew  all  of  us,  and  he  knew  that  we  knew 
the  artists,  so  originally  there  were  three  of  us.   We 
received  wires  one  morning.   It  was  on  a  Friday.   We  were 
to  put  100  artists  to  work  by  Monday  night.   Well,  of 
course  that  couldn't  be  done,  but  it  was  a  very  exciting 
thing.   The  three  of  us  met,  and  we  added  two  more  people 
to  our  committee,  and  we  really  went  to  work  combing  the 
names  of  all  of  the  artists  who  we  knew  that  were  operating 
in  Southern  California  who  had  both  the  capacity  to  do 
things  of  importance  and  who  also  probably  needed  help. 
It  took  us  about  a  week,  but  we  did  get  seventy-five  or 
eighty  artists  working  within  a  week. 

We  had  some  of  the  most  distinguished  names  in  American 
painting.   Many  who  were  living  here  then  moved  away,  of 
course,  and  lived  in  other  parts  of  the  country.   There 
were  some  very  distinguished  guys  and  gals.   Lorser 
Feitelson  and  his  present  wife  [Helen  Lundeberg]  were  on 
the  project.   We  had  at  least  thirty  artists  that  were 
competent  mural  painters. 


So  the  first  thing  we  did  was  to  sit  down  with  the 
artists  individually,  and  we  offered  them  many  opportunities. 
We  were  running  like  mad  in  every  direction.   We  were  going 
to  schools,  we  were  going  to  various  public  buildings,  and 
asking  if  they  would  be  willing  to  have  a  mural  painted,  if 
we  did  it  through  this  project.   And  of  course  a  lot  of  them 
didn't  even  know  what  a  mural  was,  and  it  took  a  long  time 
to  correlate  the  ability  that  these  artists  had  with  the 
possibilities.   But  eventually  we  had  things  in  practically 
all  the  public  buildings  here,  done  by  very  distinguished 
people . 

Many  of  these  things  are  still  up  and  are  very  attractive, 
A  lot  of  them  have  been  removed  because  the  buildings  have 
been  torn  down  or  for  other  reasons.   But  it  was  a  vital, 
wonderful  program.   It  lasted  about  two  and  a  half  years. 
During  that  time  we  had  people,  of  course,  doing  graphics; 
they  were  painting;  there  was  lots  of  sculpture.   We  did 
tremendous  numbers  of  big  sculpture  projects  in  parks,  and 
a  lot  of  the  things  that  are  sprinkled  all  around  Southern 
California  were  done  during  that  time,  as  far  away  as  San 
Diego  and  as  far  north  as  Santa  Barbara,  and  all  over  this 
part  of  the  country. 

GOODWIN:   Were  there  many  artists  who  were  excluded  because 
they  weren ' t  good  enough? 

SHEETS:   The  only  competent  artists  that  were  excluded 
were  those  that  didn't  need  help.   The  PWA  project  was 


designed  to  really  assist  people  who  needed  financial  help 

during  that  period.   Many  of  the  artists  had  had  a  very 

decent  income,  a  very  decent  job  in  some  instances,  and 

a  lot  of  those  things  disappeared.   They  really  were  having 

a  hard  time  to  support  a  family. 

GOODWIN:   What  kind  of  payment  did  the  artists  receive? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I'd  have  to  look  that  up.   It  was  adequate, 

but  it  was  certainly  not  extravagant.   It  would  be  probably 

not  unlike  what  Russia  pays  its  artists  in  relation  to 

their  society — maybe  not  as  good,  because  in  Russia  today, 

an  artist,  once  he  or  she  is  approved  in  the  city,  has  an 

income  which  is  probably  close  to  about  $500,  which  is  a 

lot  of  money  in  Russia,  or  was  when  I  was  there  sixteen 

years  ago.   I  don't  know  whether  it  is  today.   I  think 

that  these  artists  received  in  the  neighborhood  of  $500 

or  $400  a  month,  which  in  those  days  was  a  great  deal  of 

money.   It  was  adequate.   They  were  given  money  for  materials, 

and  we  bought  the  materials,  I  think,  largely  through  the 

project,  the  canvas  and  the  oils  or  whatever  the  materials 

were  for  whatever  mural  or  sculptural  project.   But  there 

must  have  been  at  least  150  major  projects  executed  during 

that  time . 

GOODWIN :   Did  you  do  any  of  them? 

SHEETS:   No.   No.   I  worked  the  whole  time  trying  to  get 

places  to  paint,  and  then  we  met  with  the  artists  at  least 

three  mornings  a  week,  which  took  a  tremendous  amount  of  my 

personal  time. 


GOODWIN:   Where  was  the  program  headquartered? 
SHEETS:   We  rented  a  vacant  building  on  Seventh  Street, 
not  too  far  from  Lafayette  Park.   We  had  a  good-sized  office 
there  and  enough  storage  space  so  we  could  store  a  lot  of 
material  and  store  a  lot  of  the  paintings.   As  the  paintings 
would  come  in,  we'd  distribute  them  to  schools  and  to  various 
public  buildings.   Whereas  I  never  received  any  money  for 
working  for  the  project — we  were  not  paid  as  administrators 
at  all--I  did  do  a  couple  of  large  lithographs,  colored 
lithographs,  which  I  gave.   We  printed  like  500  each,  and 
I  keep  running  into  these  things  at  schools  and  places. 
They  were  done  way  back  in  the  thirties.   I  was  able  to 
get  quite  a  few  artists  to  give  some  very  important  things, 
sometimes  an  actual  painting,  sometimes  a  piece  of  sculpture. 
All  of  us  who  didn't  have  to  have  that  income — and  I  don't 
mean  to  suggest  that  I  had  any  money;  I  was  pretty  broke  in 
the  Depression.   We  were  having  babies,  but  we  had  an 
adequate  amount  to  live  on.   I  took  time  away  from  Scripps 
and,  in  the  early  days,  Chouinard  to  do  this  work,  but  it 
was  a  great  experience. 

GOODWIN:   Was  there  a  neighborhood  where  artists  tended 
to  live  in  those  days,  or  were  they  spread  out? 
SHEETS:   Los  Angeles  has  always  been  too  spread  out.   There 
was  quite  a  group  around  [Stanton]  MacDonald-Wright,  who 
worked  up  in  the  North  Broadway  area.   There  were  a  lot  of 
studios  where  all  the  Civic  Center  now  is.   There  was  a 


bunch  of  old,  interesting  buildings,  and  many  artists  lived 
in  that  area,  and  they  had  studios  there.   MacDonald-Wright 
had  classes  up  on  Broadway  in  a  building.   There  were  dance 
studios  up  there,  and  I  mean  real  dance  studios,  not  just 
where  some  guy  goes  to  dance.   There  were  little  smatterings 
here  and  there  in  Hollywood.   There  were  a  few  up  around, 
oh,  let's  see,  that  park  between  Sunset  and  Temple,  Echo 
Park,  near  the  old  Aimee  Semple  McPherson  temple  [Angelus 
Temple  Church  of  the  Foursquare  Gospel] .   There  were  quite 
a  lot  of  artists  that  lived  right  around  in  there.   But 
there  wasn't  really  a  center  like  New  York.   The  city's 
so  spread  out. 

GOODWIN:   It  sounds,  though,  that  there  was  a  greater 
feeling  of  camaraderie  then  than  today? 

SHEETS:   The  PWA  project  during  the  Depression  certainly 
did  create  a  lot  of  opportunity  for  artists  to  meet.   About 
the  only  other  things  that  brought  artists  together  were 
the  old  California  Art  Club  and  the  old  California  Water- 
color  Society.   The  California  Art  Club  was  more  of  a 
social  club  than  anything  else,  although  they  did  have 
an  exhibit  every  year.   The  Watercolor  Society  didn't  have 
social  meetings,  but  they  were  a  good  society,  very  young, 
and  there  weren't  many  members.   I  am  one  of  the  very  early 
members  of  that,  and  the  older  people  in  it  were  very  good 
watercolor  painters,  like  Vysekal  and  a  whole  group  that 
had  started  it.   It  was  a  nice  group,  a  national  society. 


But  the  PWA  gave  all  the  artists  an  opportunity,  who  prob- 
ably wouldn't  have  seen  each  other  and  had  much  to  do  with 
one  another,  a  chance  to  get  together.   Fletcher  Martin  is 
the  man  I  was  trying  to  think  of  who  did  some  very  important 
things  in  the  federal  building  or  state  building,  I've  for- 
gotten which.   I  think  it  was  the  federal  building. 

Leo  Katz  was  an  artist  who  was  living  here  who  had 
been  very  famous  in  New  York.   He's  since  died.   Of  course, 
he  was  in  his  sixties  then.   He  was  a  very  strong,  almost 
heroic,  painter  and  lithographer.   He  did  a  couple  of  big 
murals . 

One  of  the  most  modern  of  all  of  the  painters  in  New 
York,  one  of  the  most  exciting  contemporary  painters,  was 
in  this  group.   There  were  four  or  five  of  them  that  worked 
as  a  team,  and  he  was  one  of  those.   I  can't  think  of  his 

There  were  problems,  too,  because  a  few  of  the  artists 
wanted  to  be  political.   There's  no  question  but  what  in 
every  group  you  get  a  few  that  are  more  concerned  about 
the  political  side  of  their  expression  than  about  the  other 
sides,  the  mural  side  or  the  decorative  side.   We  ran  into 
that  as  a  real  problem  because  within  the  government,  back 
in  Washington,  we  were  told  very  strongly  that  this  could 
not  be  a  vehicle  for  real  communism  or  any  other  kind  of 
specialism.   If  an  artist  was  a  communist,  that  wasn't  any 
reason  we  shouldn't  put  him  on  the  payroll,  but  he  wasn't 


to  paint  communistic  murals.   Well,  we  had  a  few  almost 
knock-down-drag-outs  with  two  or  three — only  two  or  three-- 
but  it  got  pretty  rough  one  time. 

I  remember  we  had  one  fellow  who  had  a  great  deal  of 
ability,  but  he  was  obnoxious  as  hell.   He  hated  everybody — 
not  just  the  committee,  he  hated  other  artists.   He  didn't 
think  anybody  else  was  an  artist.   I  remember  this  great 
guy.  Merle  Armitage,  who  wore  no  man's  collar.   He  was  a 
very  independent  cuss  himself  and  patient  up  to  a  point. 
We  had,  I  think,  three  meetings  with  this  fellow  and  he 
kept  being  more  and  more  obnoxious.   He  developed  a  little 
more  of  that  each  time.   Finally  he  came  in  the  third  time, 
and  Merle  had  said  this  was  the  last  time  we  were  going  to 
reason  with  him.   The  fellow  started  a  tirade  all  over  again 
about  the  fact  that  he  thought  he  should  be  allowed  to  do 
any  damn  thing  he  wanted  to  do.   Merle  said,  "Well,  my 
friend,  I'll  tell  you,  when  there's  a  cancer  you  get  a 
knife  and  you  cut  it  out."   He  said,  "You've  just  been 
amputated."   It  was  really  funny  the  way  he  did  it  at  that 
time.   It  probably  wouldn't  seem  as  funny  now.   He  really 
meant  it,  and  the  artist  was  amputated.   But  basically 
they  were  marvelous. 

Some  teams  came  out  of  the  project  that  were  quite 
interesting,  people  that  hadn't  known  too  much  about  each 
other.   One  of  the  greatest  guys,  of  course,  without  any 
question,  was  Lorser  Feitelson,  because  he  had  been  a 


teacher  long  enough  and  he  had  been  an  artist  long  enough. 
He'd  painted  all  over  Europe.   He  knew  his  way  around,  and 
he  was  not  afraid  to  try  anything.   He  took  on,  happily, 
several  young  people,  young  artists  who  hadn't  been  out  of 
art  school  too  long.   Without  really  dictating  to  them,  he 
put  them  under  his  wing  and  helped  a  lot  of  them  learn  a 
hell  of  a  lot.   He  literally  was  teaching  while  they  were 
working.   They  were  not  married  at  that  time,  but  his  wife, 
Helen  Lundeberg ,  who  paints  under  her  own  name,  of  course, 
was  doing  some  perfectly  beautiful  projects  of  her  own. 
Jean  and  Arthur  Ames  did  a  fabulous  couple  of  mosaics  down 
at  Newport  Beach.   They  were  extremely  competent,  and  they 
worked  so  well  and  so  beautifully  together.   Later,  when 
Jean  came  to  teach  for  me  at  Scripps,  they  decided  to  get 
married  in  order  to  move  to  Claremont.   But  there  were  a 
lot  of  interesting  teams  that  came  out  of  that  whole  period, 
people  who  hadn't  worked  together  before,  and  I  think  it  was 
a  very  good  thing.   I  don't  think  all  the  art  that  came  out 
of  it  was  great,  but  I  think  it  was  a  marvelous,  timely 
thing.   It  was  certainly  better  for  an  artist  than  to  go 
work  on  a  road  project  or  something  else,  which  so  many 
people  were  doing  at  the  same  time. 

It's  hard  for  you  to  really  visualize  at  your  age  what 
the  Depression  was  like.   It  was  a  discouraging  period  to 
most  people.   They  didn't  know  where  to  turn.   I  think  the 
start  with  this  project  was  so  fast  due  to  Edward  Bruce, 


who  was  a  great  friend  of  the  president.   He  was  a  famous 
lawyer  and  a  very  good  artist  in  his  own  right.   You  prob- 
ably don't  know  his  work  because  he  wasn't  known  out  here 
very  much.   But  Edward  Bruce  was  a  very  competent  painter, 
and  he  was  very  close  to  Roosevelt.   He  persuaded  Roosevelt 
and  the  then-head  of  the  Treasury  Department  that  this  was 
a  good  idea.   He  just  reached  out  and  tapped  all  of  his 
friends  all  over  the  country  to  set  up  these  different 
organizations,  and  almost  overnight  they  did — I  don't  know 
how  many  centers,  at  least  eight  or  ten,  maybe  more.   When 
you  think  of  starting  to  paint  murals  all  within  about  a 
month,  right  on  walls,  it  was  quite  an  undertaking.   We 
had  very  limited  means,  but  I  think  it  was  great.   Out  of 
it  came  a  lot  of  good  painters,  all  over  the  United  States, 
not  certainly  just  here — painters  that  I  know  very  well, 
that  I've  known  all  my  life,  that  I  didn't  know  worked  on 
that  project.   Henry  Varnum  Poor  and,  gosh,  I  can't  even 
begin  to  tell  you  the  people.   It  was  a  marvelous  period. 
GOODWIN:   What  was  the  next  step  in  your  mural  painting? 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  think  it  grew  out  of  the  Home  Savings 
development,  because  it  was  the  first  time  that  I'd  ever 
had  an  opportunity  to  be  so  deeply  involved  with  the 
combination  of  the  mural  and  the  building.   Just  as  an 
aside,  I  think  that  probably  in  the  history  of  our  country, 
there's  never  been  an  equal  opportunity  for  any  other 
artist  than  what  I've  had  in  this  Home  Savings  relationship. 


It's  a  commercial  enterprise,  obviously  a  free  enterprise, 
designed  to  make  a  profit.   Due  to  the  fluke  of  a  peculiar 
relationship  between  [Howard]  Ahmanson  and  myself,  we 
started  the  first  buildings. 

I  had  never  even  heard  of  Mr.  Ahmanson,  and  one  day 
in  the  mail  I  received  a  letter.   It  was  written  almost 
like  a  telegram.   It  said:   "Dear  Sheets.   Saw  photograph 
building  you  designed,  L.A.  Times.   Liked  it.   I  have  two 
valuable  properties,  Wilshire  Boulevard,  need  buildings. 
Have  driven  Wilshire  Boulevard  twenty-six  years,  know  year 
every  building  built,  names  of  most  architects,  bored.   If 
interested  in  doing  a  building  that  will  look  good  thirty- 
five  or  forty  years  from  now  when  I'm  not  here,  call  me." 
That  was  the  most  amazing  letter  I  ever  received.   Well,  I 
called  him,  and  I  could  tell  you  some  delightful  stories 
about  the  first  meeting. 
GOODWIN:   Go  ahead. 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  called  him  up  and  said,  "This  is  Mr.  Sheets 
calling."   He  just  said,  "Interested?"   I  said,  "Well,  it 
certainly  sounds  interesting."   "Do  you  ever  get  hungry?" 
"Well,  yes,  normally,  about  noon."   "Lunch  tomorrow?"   I 
said,  "Great."   He  said,  "My  address  is  so-and-so  and  so- 
and-so,"  and  he  hung  up. 

Well,  I  didn't  know  what  the  hell  I  was  getting  into, 
but  I  went  to  this  place  down  on  South  Spring  Street.   I 
parked  next  to  the  number  of  the  building  he  gave  me.   He 


said  it  was  top  floor.   I  went  upstairs  in  the  most  rickety 
elevator  I  have  ever  been  on.   I  wasn't  sure  I  was  going  to 
get  to  the  top,  but  I  got  there  and  stepped  right  out  into 
the  worst  sweatshop  I  have  ever  seen  in  my  life.   I've  seen 
in  the  garment  areas  things  that  look  so  much  better,  where, 
at  least,  there  was  space  for  a  human  being  to  move.   This 
was  a  sea  of  desks  and  confusion  like  I've  never  seen  in  my 
life  and  the  most  miserable  lighting.   Eventually  a  lady 
came  over  and  asked  me  if  I  was  Mr.  Sheets.   I  said  yes, 
being  the  only  foreign-looking  person  in  the  place.   She 
said,  "Follow  me."   Well,  following  her  meant  weaving 
through  a  bunch  of  desks,  turning  sideways  (and  I  was 
skinny  in  those  days),  and  slithering  along,  and  eventually 
getting  around  through  a  kind  of  figure-8  pattern  to  a  door 
into  an  office,  which  she  opened,  and  I  went  in. 

I  saw  a  man  sitting  in  his  shirtsleeves,  his  feet  up 
on  his  desk,  with  a  telephone,  and  he  just  nodded  to  a  so- 
called  sofa.   Well,  in  my  life  I  have  never  sat  on  a  sofa 
like  this.   It  was  the  old-fashioned  kind  that  had  loose 
springs  that  hadn't  been  tied.   The  least  you'd  get  is  a 
good  goose  out  of  one.   I  sat  down,  and  I  hit  bottom 
instantly.   The  room  was  covered  with  plaster  that  had 
been  so  long  up  there  that  there  were  holes  in  it.   It 
was  a  sherbet  green  of  natural-colored  plaster  which  had 
not  been  painted.   The  lighting  in  the  room  was  ghastly, 
and  the  drapes  were  terrible.   The  desk  had  a  hole  in  it 


where  his  feet  had  been,   I  thought,  what  kind  of  a  gooney 
bird  have  I  gotten  myself  with  here?   What  is  this,  anyway? 

In  addition  to  that,  he  sat  there  and  talked  for  thirty 
minutes.   He  had  never  more  than  acknowledged  the  fact  that 
I  arrived.   I  sat  there,  and  I  didn't  know  whether  or  not 
to  get  up  and  leave,  but  this  conversation  went  on  and  on 
and  on.   It  seemed  to  be  very  involved  with  business,  and 
it  didn't  make  any  difference  to  him  that  I  was  waiting. 
Finally  he  hung  up  suddenly  and  stood  up,  reached  back  on 
an  old  coatrack,  pulled  his  coat  off,  and  put  it  on,  and 
said,  "Let's  go."   He  didn't  even  say  hi.   Now  we've  got 
to  go  through  the  figure-8  again,  and  we  go  through  all 
that  same  mess.   We  go  back  on  the  same  elevator,  down  to 
the  bottom.   I  don't  know  where  we're  going,  I  suppose  some 
little  joint  on  Spring  Street.   We  walk  around  to  the  same 
parking  lot  where  I  parked,  and  here's  the  most  beautiful, 
big,  overgrown  Cadillac  I've  ever  seen,  with  a  nice,  colored 
chauffeur.   We  get  in  the  back  seat,  and  he  started  out 
towards  Beverly  Hills. 

I  still  don't  know  where  we're  going — he  didn't  say — 
but  we  started  a  conversation  that  was  so  exciting.   He 
never  discussed  anything  about  the  buildings  at  any  time 
and  I  certainly  didn't.   He  didn't  discuss  anything  about 
the  fact  that  I  was  an  artist  or  why  I  was  with  him.   We 
just  started  on  subjects  that  became  more  and  more  inter- 
esting during  the  entire  afternoon.   We  had  a  beautiful 


lunch  at  the  Beverly  Hills  Club.   A  lot  of  his  friends 
came  by.   I  was  introduced  to  them,  they'd  walk  away  after- 
wards, and  the  conversation  would  go  right  back  to  wnere  it 
was.   Neither  of  us  knew  that  we'd  reached  five  o'clock.   I 
suddenly  looked  at  my  watch,  and  I  had  had  a  three  o'clock 
appointment  and  nearly  fainted.   I  knew  this  was  a  real  job 
[laughter]  and  I  couldn't  care  about  that  appointment.   Oh, 
I  nearly  died.   I  said,  "Mr.  Ahmanson,  I'm  terribly  sorry 
but  I've  got  to  go.   I've  got  to  get  to  a  telephone 
immediately."   Well,  of  course,  the  people  I  was  to  meet 
had  gone;  they  weren't  in  their  office  after  five  o'clock. 
So  he  said,  "Well,  I  missed  one,  too.   I  was  supposed  to  be 
someplace  at  three-thirty."   With  that  we  go  out  and  get  in 
his  car,  and  we're  driving  down  Wilshire  Boulevard,  coming 
east  towards  Los  Angeles  from  Beverly.   As  we  go  by  a  certain 
block,  without  even  looking,  he  just  takes  his  finger  and  he 
says,  "That's  one  of  them."   Then  we  go  on  clear  down  this 
side  of  Western  Avenue  and,  "That's  another  one."   That's 
all  he  said. 

We  got  down  to  the  parking  lot,  and  all  this  time 
there's  never  been  one  word  about  a  building.   I  want  to 
tell  you  it  was  one  of  the  most  exciting  afternoons  I've 
ever  had.   We  talked  about  everything.   I  couldn't  tell 
you  now  what  we  talked  about,  but  I  know  it  was  like 
hundreds  of  conversations  I  had  with  Howard  after  that. 
He  was  one  of  the  best-read  men  I've  ever  known.   He  read 


every  night  until  two  or  three  in  the  morning.   He  couldn't 
sleep,  and  he  just  read.   He  was  a  very  exciting  guy,  if  you 
had  him  alone.   In  a  crowd,  he  became  a  totally  different 
human  being.   He  became  more  pompous,  and  he  became  a  little 
more  braggadocio  about  his  success  and  so  forth.   There 
wasn't  an  inkling  of  that  in  this  original  conversation. 
We  got  into  the  parking  lot,  and  he  said,  "Your  car 
here?"   I  said,  "Yes,  it's  right  there."   He  said,  "Do  you 
think  you  could  put  up  with  me?"   I  said,  "Well,  I  don't 
know  what  you  mean."   He  said,  "Well,  do  you  think  you 
could  put  up  with  me  to  do  a  building  or  two?"   I  said,  "I 
sure  can.   It  doesn't  seem  to  me  like  it  would  be  very 
difficult  because  you've  put  up  with  me."   He  said,  "All 
right,  that  settles  it.   I  want  you  to  understand  something 
now:   I  don't  want  you  to  telephone  me  ever.   I  do  not  wish 
to  discuss  these  buildings  with  you.   I'm  going  to  let  you 
do  one,  and  if  it's  right  then  we'll  do  the  other  one."   I 
said,  "Well,  Mr.  Ahraanson,  we've  got  to  discuss  budgets. 
I  haven't  even  discussed  fees."   He  said,  "You'll  be  fair 
with  me,  and  I'll  be  fair  with  you.   The  budget — that's  up 
to  what  you  build.   You  build  it  like  you  were  building  it 
for  yourself."   I  said,  "I  can't  take  that  responsibility; 
no  way  I  can  do  that."   He  said,  "Well,  then  you're  not 
going  to  do  the  job."   I  said,  "I  don't  even  know  anything 
about  the  function.   I  don't  even  know  what  kind  of  a 
building  it  is."   He  said,  "I  have  plenty  of  people  who 


can  give  you  that  information,  but  now  listen,  don't  you 
let  them  tell  you  how  to  design  this  building.   If  you 
want  to  know  how  many  bodies  there  have  to  be  in  the  room 
and  what  they  do,  fine.   But  don't  you  talk  design  to  any- 
one.  I  want  nobody  connected  with  it.   I  haven't  got  a 
guy  in  my  organization  that  knows  anything  about  this. 
And  I  don't.   And  I  want  it  done  the  way  you  would  do  it 
if  you  were  doing  it  for  yourself." 

"Well,"  I  said,  "I've  got  to  think  about  that." 
Really,  I  almost  shook  all  the  way  driving  back  to  Claremont. 
It  was  so  utterly  unusual.   I'd  done  several  buildings  for 
commercial  people,  and  we'd  always  set  budgets.   I'd  studied 
the  problems  and  presented  the  solutions,  and  then  we  dis- 
cussed whether  we  could  do  what  they  wanted  within  the 
budget.   Well,  none  of  that  with  him,  no  way. 

I  finally  called  him  one  day,  and  I  said,  "Now,  I  have 
three  different  solutions,  just  as  preliminary  ideas  for 
this  building.   Would  you  be  willing  to  look  at  these  three 
and  even  say  you  had  a  preference?"   He  said,  "Well,  okay, 
okay."   I  took  three  sketches  in  of  this  first  building, 
and  I  set  them  down  on  this  god-awful  floor  in  this  god- 
awful office,  and  he  looked  at  them.   He  walked  up  and  down 
the  room  for  forty  minutes,  and  he  never  said  a  word,  not 
one  word.   There  wasn't  a  frown  or  a  smile.   He  just 
absolutely  walked  up  and  down.   Finally,  he  went  over,  and 
he  picked  up  the  telephone,  and  he  called  his  wife.   He 


said,  "I'm  looking  at  the  goddamnedest  building."   He 
said,  "It's  just  going  to  be  great."   He  wouldn't  tell 
me — he  told  her.   He  said,  "I  can't  wait  for  you  to  see 
it.   It's  going  to  be  just  exactly  what  I  wanted."   He 
went  on  and  on  and  on,  and  he  talked  to  her  for  forty 
minutes.   Well,  it  was  pleasant,  but  it  was  a  little 
embarrassing,  too.   Finally  he  said,  "Well,  could  I  borrow 
that  sketch  tonight,  and  I'll  get  it  back  to  you  tomorrow?" 
IlaughterJ   I  said,  "Which  one?"   He  said,  "That  one."   He 
never  hesitated  over  what  he  wanted,  and  he  took  it  home. 
He  sent  it  out  special  delivery  the  next  day  to  Claremont, 
sent  a  guy  out  with  it,  and  with  instructions  that  I  was 
to  talk  to  so-and-so  for  my  information. 

I  went  in  and  talked  to  this  fellow  [Kenneth  Childs] 
four  or  five  times  and  did  get  a  lot  of  information.   I 
found  out  it  was  an  insurance  company  and  a  few  other 
things,  and  I  went  ahead  with  it.   When  it  was  ready  to 
let  the  contract,  I  called  this  same  guy  and  I  said,  "Well, 
the  building  is  all  set,  and  the  contract  is  ready  to  go." 
He  said,  "Fire."   I  said,  "Well,  don't  you  want  to  know 
anything  about  it?"   He  said,  "It  wouldn't  make  any 
difference  to  me.   It's  what  the  boss  wants." 

So  we  built  the  building.   I  got  down  to  the  middle 
of  construction,  and  on  my  sketch  I  had  suggested  some 
sculpture  and  one  mosaic  and  so  forth.   By  this  time  I 
knew  I  wanted  a  certain  man  to  do  the  sculpture,  and  I 


was  going  to  do  the  mosaic,  but  there  were  some  other  things 
involved,  too.   I  had  a  budget  for  what  the  art  was  going 
to  cost.   Of  course  up  to  this  time  I  always  thought  of  art 
being  completely  separate,  outside  the  regular  budget,  as 
it  always  was  presented  to  me  by  any  architect  and  by  any 
client  I'd  ever  dealt  with.   So  I  called  him  up.   He  finally 
answered  the  phone,  and  I  said,  "Mr.  Ahmanson,  I  know  that 
you've  asked  me  not  to  bother  you,  but  I  have  a  really  vital 
decision  that  I  think  you  are  the  only  one  to  make.   If  you 
remember  on  that  little  sketch  that  you  saw,  I  just  indicated 
sculpture  and  so  forth.   I  have  now  all  the  costs  on  the 
entire  art  part  of  this  job,  and  the  cost  will  be  so  much, 
and  I  want  your  approval  before  I  spend  that  money  because 
part  of  it — the  mosaic,  of  course — will  be  coming  to  me." 
We  were  cut  off  the  phone,  cut  off  the  line.   I  called  right 
back,  and  his  secretary  answered,  and  I  said,  "I  was  dis- 
cussing the  building  with  Mr.  Ahmanson,  and  we  were  cut 
off.   May  I  talk  to  him  again?"   She  said,  "Mr.  Sheets, 
you  were  not  cut  off.   He  hung  up.   He  said  to  tell  you  if 
you  called  back  that  this  is  your  problem."   At  that  point 
I  thought,  well,  to  hell  with  you,  we'll  do  it. 
GOODWIN:   Right.   [laughter] 
SHEETS:   So  we  went  at  it,  and  we  did  it. 
GOODWIN:   What  was  the  additional  cost? 

SHEETS:   Oh,  it  was  nothing  in  those  days — I  think  $37,000 
for  all  of  the  art,  which  was  a  tremendous  amount  of 
sculpture.   Oh,  boy. 


Anyway,  when  the  building  was  finished  and  we  were 
taking  the  bullworks  down,  the  wall  along  the  street  to 
protect  the  pedestrians  from  your  building  and  so  forth, 
it  was  on  a  Friday  morning.   I  was  planning  to  call  him 
that  afternoon  for  a  Saturday  morning  walk-through,  because 
he  told  me  he  wanted  a  turnkey  job.   The  telephone  rang  in 
the  job  office.   I  practically  lived  in  that  job  office  on 
that  job,  and  I  had  beaten  everybody's  ears  down  on  costs. 
He  knew  what  he  was  doing.   I  saved  so  much  money  on  that 
building  by  making  people  think  they  were  lucky  to  be  part 
of  it.   The  telephone  rang  about  eleven  o'clock  in  the 
morning,  and  I  answered  it,  and  he  said,  "Sheets?"   I 
said,  "Yes."   He  said,  "This  is  Howard."   He  said,  "Why 
didn't  you  tell  me  you  were  taking  those  barricades  down?" 
"Well,"  I  said,  "we  aren't  done  with  them.   We're  just 
taking  them  down,  and  I  had  planned  this  afternoon  to  call 
you  and  see  if  I  could  make  a  date  with  you  tomorrow  morning 
or  Monday  morning,  whichever  was  most  convenient."   He  said, 
"I'll  be  there  in  five  minutes."   In  five  minutes  he  drove 
through  the  rear  entrance  into  the  most  beautiful  garden. 
I  had  moved  trees  that  were  thirty-five  and  forty  years 
old.   I  had  planted  lawn  by  the  method  where  you  move  turf. 
The  place  looked  like  it  had  been  there  for  fifty  years. 
There  was  a  great  court  in  the  back  where  all  the  employees 
could  go  out  and  have  lunch,  with  a  beautiful  fountain. 
There  was  a  suite  of  offices  for  him  and  a  boardroom. 


which  was  separate  entirely  from  the  big  operation  of  the 
insurance  company  because  he  was  handling  many  different 
organizations  at  the  time.   Then  there  was  space  for  the 
operation  of  the  insurance  company  as  well  as  a  lounge  for 
all  of  the  secretaries. 

He  drove  in  the  back  and  parked  exactly  where  I 
designed  for  him  to  park.   He  got  out  of  his  car  and  stood 
there,  and  his  eyes  just  turned.   You've  never  seen  the 
intensity  with  which  he  swept  that  whole  courtyard.   Then 
he  moved  forward  about  twenty  feet  and  looked  down  into 
the  sunken  part  of  it,  looked  at  it,  turned  to  me,  no 
smiles,  no  anything,  just  blank,  said,  "Where  do  we  start?" 
Well,  I  thought  we  had  already  started,  but  anyway  I  took 
him  back  through  the  rear  entrance,  which  I  designed  really 
for  him,  so  he  wouldn't  have  to  go  out  through  the  main 
office.   I  took  him  into  the  boardroom,  where  I  had  the 
most  beautiful  fireplace  and  a  sculpture  as  an  integral 
part  of  the  fireplace,  marvelous  furniture,  and  a  special 
table  that  I  designed  and  had  built.   I  took  him  into  his 
offices.   I  even  had  beautiful  models  of  fire  engines  made 
that  cost  me  two  or  three  thousand  dollars  apiece.   I  just 
wanted  to  make  this  so  personal  to  him.   And,  oh,  I  bought 
one  of  the  greatest  Japanese  screens,  one  I  wish  I  owned 
myself  today,  that  I  hung  in  the  boardroom.   I  did  every- 
thing as  he  had  said,  "For  me."   He  goes  over  to  his  desk, 
which  was,  boy,  it  was  a  Cadillac  of  desks.   I  designed 


every  inch  of  it,  and  it  had  been  built  by  Coliombia  Showcase 
Company . 

He  goes  over,  sits  down  in  this  big  chair,  puts  his 
feet  right  smack  up  in  the  middle  of  that  desk,  and  he  just 
sat  there.   It  was  forty-five  or  fifty  minutes  that  he  kept 
looking  around.   There  were  beautiful  recessed  cases  for 
some  of  his  yachting  trophies  and  so  forth.   He  just  roamed 
around  there,  no  word,  no  excitement,  no  disdain,  no  "yes," 
no  "no."   Finally  he  got  up  and  asked,  "Where  do  we  go  next?" 
We  went  through  the  whole  building  like  that,  a  step  at  a 
time . 

Finally  we  went  out  to  what  I  thought  was  the  most 
exciting  entrance  to  the  building,  the  entrance  lobby. 
I  had  sculptured  grills  and  all  kinds  of  things.   He  looked 
it  all  over,  every  inch  of  it,  walked  out  the  front  door, 
looked  along  the  street,  walked  across  the  street,  leaned 
up  against  a  lamppost  and  started  to  laugh.   By  this  time 
I'm  mad.   It  was  two  and  a  half  hours  from  the  time  that 
guy  had  arrived;  it  was  almost  two  o'clock  in  the  afternoon. 
He  hadn't  said  one  kind  word,  and  he  started  to  laugh.   I 
thought,  well,  you  laughing  son  of  a  bitch,  it's  no  laughing 
matter  if  you'd  spent  a  year  and  a  quarter  on  a  project, 
and  this  is  the  reaction.   He  turned  to  me  and  he  said, 
"Millard,  you  know,  I  thought  a  lot  of  times  when  the  bills 
came  in  on  this  building  that  I  was  a  little  whimsical  when 
I  said,  'Do  it  the  way  you  want  to  do  it  for  yourself.' 


But  I  want  to  tell  you  something."   He  said,  "I  am  so 
crazy  about  it,  but  that  is  only  half  of  it.   This  is 
going  to  make  money,  which  1  didn't  plan."   I  said,  "What 
do  you  mean  it's  going  to  make  money?"   He  said,  "This  is 
going  to  sell  insurance."   I  said,  "Well,  okay,  but  if  you 
like  it,  it's  okay."   He  said,  "I'm  crazy  about  it.   Start 
the  other  one  tomorrow."   Well,  that  was  our  relationship 
for  so  many  years  that  it  was  really  incredible.   And  of 
course  that's  when  I  discovered  that  if  you  design  a 
building  that  requires  art,  they  would  have  to  use  it. 
GOODWIN:   Right. 

SHEETS:   Secondly,  he  had  the  sense  to  know  that  it  was 
going  to  make  business.   Neither  of  us  could  believe  the 
attention  that  that  little  piddling  building  got.   It  was 
on  Wilshire  Boulevard,  and  unfortunately  we  had  to  tear  it 
down  when  we  built  the  big  Ahmanson  Center.   There  was  no 
way  of  explaining  how  the  public  reacted  to  that  damn 
building.   It  was  incredible.   It  was  in  all  the  magazines; 
it  got  awards,  everything.   It  was  just  crazy. 

So  when  we  finished  the  next  one,  in  the  first  ten 
days  after  it  opened,  $19  million  walked  in  the  front 

GOODWIN:   Wow. 

SHEETS:   The  use  of  that  money  paid  for  the  entire  building- 
the  property,  the  furnishings,  the  landscaping,  all  of  the 
art — in  the  first  ten  days;  it  more  than  paid  for  it.   The 


longest  that  any  of  those  Ahmanson  buildings  have  taken 
to  pay  for  themselves  is  six  months.   That's  the  longest. 
GOODWIN:   How  many  have  you  done  since? 
SHEETS:   About  forty. 
GOODWIN:   Forty! 

SHEETS:   So  it  is  not  an  accident.   I  mean  there's  no 
question  but  that  the  public  responds  to  a  kind  of 
presence,  if  you  can  create  it.   Now  I  have  no  illusions 
about  how  good  they  are.   I  can  tell  you  more  about  what's 
wrong  with  my  buildings  than  any  other  person  in  the  world. 
I  can  take  the  gaff  that  the  architects  and  a  lot  of  other 
people  throw  at  me  because,  number  one,  I've  never  compro- 
mised, ever,  on  any  building  I've  ever  done.   If  they're 
bad,  it's  my  fault,  not  Mr.  Ahmanson ' s  or  Home  Savings  or 
anybody's  else.   I  design  them  for  a  purpose,  and  I  design 
them  with  the  best  taste  that  I  can  put  in  them.   I  get 
the  best  artists  that  I  can,  although  I  can't  always  get 
the  ones  that  I  want.   I  know  there's  a  challenge  and  that 
it's  the  reaction  of  the  public  that's  important.   The 
reaction  has  been  so  extravagantly  good,  in  terms  that 
people  just  like  to  be  identified  with  the  buildings, 
they  like  to  go  there  and  see  the  art;  they  like  to  feel 
that  it's  a  different  flavor  than  they  usually  get.   Now, 
of  course,  there's  been  more  and  more  of  it  done  since  we 
did  it  in  those  early  days,  as  there  will  be  more  and 
more.   But  I  think  the  astounding  thing  is  that  for 


twenty-seven  years,  even  after  Howard's  death  nine  or  ten 
years  ago,  the  company  has  gone  right  on  with  the  same 
idea.   That's  why  I  say  I  don't  think  in  the  history  of 
this  country  have  there  ever  been  an  opportunity  for  an 
artist  to  do  what  I've  been  able  to  do  without  trying  to 
sell  anything  or  in  any  way  trying  to  do  anything  except 
what  the  client  really  wants.   They  need  it.   They  know  it. 
There  isn't  any  question  about  it. 

This,  of  course,  led  to  so  many  exciting  things,  such 
as  the  development  of  a  regular  staff  to  do  stained  glass, 
which  we  do  in  Pasadena.   To  keep  the  number  of  artists 
that  have  been  involved  in  these  buildings  that  I've  done 
going  full  time  with  years  of  work  ahead,  with  no  question 
about  whether  they  have  a  job  or  not,  it's  a  pretty  exciting 
thing  that  I've  been  able  to  do.   The  number  of  incredible 
commissions  that  I've  been  able  to  give  artists  all  over 
the  United  States,  not  only  for  Howard  Ahmanson  but  for  the 
banks  in  Texas  and  other  places  that  I've  done  work,  is 
amazing,  always  because  people  traveling  to  California 
saw  these  things,  got  in  touch  with  me,  and  said,  "We 
need  this  down  here,"  "We  need  this  down  there."   One  down 
here  leads  you  to  another  place  and  another  place.   I've 
never  solicited  a  job,  ever. 

It  isn't  because  they're  that  good.  It's  because 
we've  tried  to  create  something  that  people  would  feel 
excited  about  being  connected  with.   That's  the  only  basis 


that  can  explain  it.   Howard  and  I  were  the  most  shocked 
of  all,  in  both  instances,  by  the  response  to  the  first 
two  buildings.   Then  Home  began  to  put  out  questionnaires. 
They  said  on  the  questionnaires,  "Why  do  you  choose  Home 
Savings?"   Well,  a  small  percent,  I  would  say  maybe  8  per- 
cent of  people,  ever  answered  questionnaires;  but  out  of 
the  percentage  that  did  answer  it,  90  percent  said,  "Your 
buildings  look  like  you're  a  solid  company.   Your  buildings 
have  a  feeling  that  we  enjoy.   We're  proud  to  bank  in  your 
buildings."   Now,  you  can't  knock  it.   When  some  of  the 
architects  call  them  mausoleums,  fine.   Don't  they  wish 
they  had  a  client  that  lasted  twenty-seven  years  and  went 
on  and  on  supporting  what  they  did? 

We're  starting  a  whole  new  thing  now  that  is  going  to 
come  out  pretty  soon.   For  twenty-five  years  at  least.  Home 
Savings  has  given  around  $20,000  a  year  to  San  Francisco 
and  Los  Angeles  for  their  big  art  festivals.   Well,  those 
things  have  been  so  badly  run  in  most  instances  in  the  last 
ten  years  that  they've  become  obnoxious — I  mean,  really 
bad.   Now  we  have  started  on  a  totally  new  plan,  where 
I'm  sure  we're  going  to  do  something  of  significance  for 
the  artist,  really  significant,  on  a  level  that  will  attract 
a  totally  different  brand  of  everything.   It  will  assure  me 
the  use  of  very  exciting  works  in  all  of  these  buildings, 
original  works.   Instead  of  buying  reproductions  and  things 
to  put  in  the  private  offices  and  so  forth,  we're  going  to 


be  able  to  use  original  works.   And  Home  is  interested  as 
hell  in  this,  not  in  a  kind  of  cheap,  lip-service  way. 

Howard  himself  became  an  art  collector,  and  so  many 
of  the  other  people  have  become  very  involved  as  people 
who  demand  art  in  their  own  lives  and  in  their  own  homes. 
Into  a  large  number  of  homes,  I've  been  able  to  get  marvelous 
things  done  by  artists,  because  they  come  to  me  and  they  say, 
"Where  can  I  get  these  things?"   Well,  it's  exciting.   I 
believe  so  deeply  that  if  you  are  really  anxious  to  solve 
problems,  that  the  problems  are  thicker  and  they'll  come 
to  you  faster  than  you  can  keep  up  with  them. 

Of  course  when  we  got  really  involved  in  these  Home 
Savings  things  we  became  excitingly  involved  with  glass 
and  metal  and  wood  and  stone  and  mosaics.   We  have  had 
tapestries  woven  for  twenty  years.   Where  I  want  a  sound 
problem  quieted  down,  instead  of  using  hard  material,  I 
use  a  tapestry.   I  designed  a  lot  of  them,  and  I  had  a  lot 
of  them  designed  by  other  artists,  sometimes  from  my  own 
staff.   The  beauty  of  it  is  that  these  artists  have  learned 
to  believe  that  there  is  a  place  for  them.   And  they're  not 
doing  compromising  things.   Anything  you  saw  over  there  on 
the  floor  today  [in  the  mosaic  studio]  is  the  best  that  we 
can  do.   If  it  isn't  good,  it's  our  fault. 


JANUARY  11,  1977 

GOODWIN:   Last  session  we  began  to  discuss  Mr.  Sheets 's 
work  with  Home  Savings  and  Loan.   He  explained  how,  when 
he  was  commissioned  to  do  the  first  building,  Mr.  Ahmanson 
was  looking  for  a  building  which  was  much  more  interesting 
than  the  ones  he  knew  on  Wilshire  Boulevard.   He  was  also 
looking  for  a  building  that  would  be  interesting  thirty- 
five  years  after  it  was  built.   What  were  the  other  criteria 
he  had  in  mind  and  others  that  you  employed  in  designing 
the  Home  Savings  buildings? 

SHEETS:   I  think  that's  a  very  good  question,  George.   He 
felt  that  in  most  American  commercial  buildings  there  had 
been  a  lack  of  art--not  merely  in  terms  of  perhaps  hanging 
pictures,  but  art  that  was  integrated  into  the  design  of 
the  building,  both  in  sculpture  and  in  murals  of  various 
kinds.   His  general  reaction,  I  should  say,  to  our  sur- 
roundings was  that  we  were  rather  culturally  deficient  in 
this  respect.   He  believed  that  people  would  be  very  much 
interested  in  the  inclusion  of  the  arts.   He  said,  "I  don't 
have  any  idea  how  to  go  about  it,  I  don't  know  where  you 
would  go  for  artists  other  than  yourself  or  whom  you  might 
choose,  and  I  think  we  should  definitely,  from  the  very 
beginning,  think  in  terms  of  including  art — not  in  some 
superficial  way  but  in  a  way  that  would  make  the  building 


more  exciting  and  create  a  presence  that  doesn't  exist  in 
most  commercial  buildings."   He  said,  "Most  of  them  are  at 
best  well  decorated  by  good  furniture  and  occasional  hangings 
and  reproductions  and  so  forth,  but  I  want  something  that 
is  really  a  part  of  the  building." 

So  from  the  very  beginning,  I,  needless  to  say,  was 
delighted  to  think  of  the  building  as  being  not  a  form  that 
you  left  a  space  or  two  and  marked  "mural"  or  "mosaic"  or 
something  else  in,  but  as  a  form  that  required  these  arts 
to  be  an  integral  part  of  it.   The  sculpture  was,  of  course, 
related  both  in  scale  and  material.   Sometimes  we  worked  in 
bronze.   Sometimes  we  worked  in  fired  ceramic  that  became 
an  actual  part  of  the  body  of  the  building.   We  also 
carved,  in  many  instances,  right  into  the  live  stone. 
We've  worked  in  almost  every  way  that  you  can  work  in 
sculpture.   We've  had  a  great  deal  of  work  done  in  wood 
as  well  as  in  bronze  and  metals  of  various  kinds.   We've 
welded  as  well  as  cast.   In  mosaics  we've  gone  the  gamut. 
I  guess  in  a  period  of  over  twenty-seven  years,  we  must 
have  done  at  least  seventy-five  mosaics  in  Home  buildings 
alone.   But  very  often  we  had  more  than  one  facade  in  which 
we've  used  mosaics.   We've  worked  them  inside  the  buildings 
as  well  as  outside.   The  response  to  mosaics  is  really  very 
exciting.   People  like  the  richness  of  the  glass  and  the 
vibration  of  the  textures.   And  of  course,  the  ideas: 
we've  nearly  always  used  symbols  that  would  symbolize 


Home  Savings — the  family,  the  home.   Or  sometimes  if  it's 
an  industrial  area,  or  if  it's  in  a  highly  recreational 
area,  we've  tried  to  do  subjects  that  seem  to  fit  the 
best  we  can  into  the  area  as  well  as  to  become  architec- 
turally right. 

GOODWIN:   Is  there  a  formula  you've  developed? 
SHEETS:   I  would  say  to  a  degree.   And  to  a  degree  we've 
been  frozen,  too,  based  upon  the  success  of  the  early 
buildings.   The  early  buildings  were  phenomenally  successful 
from  the  point  of  view  of  the  company  or  the  corporation. 
What  I  mean  by  that  is  that  the  public  reaction  was  so 
strong  that  the  first  Home  Savings  building  literally  paid 
for  itself  in  the  first  ten  days  of  operation.   We  built 
that  building  on  Wilshire  Boulevard  in  the  heart  of  Beverly 
Hills,  right  across  the  street  on  the  same  north  side  from 
where  they  had  been  doing  business  for  about  nine  years. 
In  nine  years  the  old  building  had  taken  in  approximately 
$11  million  in  deposits.   It  was  a  very  nice  building,  not 
unattractive,  but  it  didn't  have  anything  specifically  to 
separate  it  from  the  other  things  on  Wilshire  Boulevard. 
When  we  built  the  new  building,  we  had  both  mosaic  and 
sculpture,  and  it  had  a  different  feeling  entirely.   In 
the  first  ten  days,  $19  million  walked  in  the  front  door. 
Now,  that  was  a  great  shock  to  Mr.  Ahmanson,  and  it  was 
probably  a  greater  shock  to  me  because  neither  of  us  had 
been  thinking  in  terms  of  this  being  so  important  to 


business.   But  immediately  it  was  apparent  that  it  was 
important  to  business.   And  as  years  went  on,  they  made 
many  polls.   They  had  customers  fill  out  various  kinds  of 
questionnaires.   Out  of  the  small  number  of  people  that  do 
fill  out  the  questionnaires,  some  90  percent  of  them  said 
the  reason  they  came  to  Home  was  they  admired  the  buildings 
and  had  felt  pride  in  banking  in  such  a  building. 

Well,  we  got  to  the  point  where  we  couldn't  knock  what 
they  were  saying.   We  had  to  accept  it.   That  had  a  disad- 
vantage because  once  that  had  been  established,  Mr.  Ahmanson 
was  very  afraid  of  changing  the  basic  scheme  of  things. 
That's  why  there  has  been  certain  repetition  of  using,  for 
instance,  travertine  on  the  outside,  of  using  certain  things 
that  have  made  the  buildings  always  recognizable.   Of  course, 
when  I  designed  that  first  shield,  which  I  designed  just  as 
a  symbol  of  Home  Savings,  I  didn't  know  I  was  going  to  see 
it  twenty  times  a  day  on  television  and  in  some  forty-five 
buildings  now.   It's  something  that  has  become  .  .  . 
GOODWIN:   A  trademark? 

SHEETS:   ...  a  definite  trademark.   It's  a  logo  that  is 
well  established.   The  same  thing  with  the  mosaics.   The 
family  theme  I  have  wanted  to  break  away  from — not  always 
by  any  means,  because  I  think  it's  a  fine  theme.   The  home 
is  absolutely  what  Home  is  all  about,  and  I  can't  suggest 
that  we  could  have  a  better  one.   But  on  occasions  it  would 
be  interesting  to  deviate  a  great  deal,  just  for  a  particular 


place  or  for  some  special  purpose.   But  that's  been  rather 

The  whole  idea  of  monolithic  buildings,  I've  never 
been  able  to  get  them  to  give  up.   Lots  of  times  I  wanted 
to  use  a  lot  of  glass,  say,  on  the  north  side  of  the 
building.   But  they  have  gotten  the  feeling  from  the 
public  that  they  like  the  sense  of  security  that  these 
buildings  have  had.   I  know  lots  of  architects  and  designers 
have  made  fun  of  them  and  have  referred  to  them  on  several 
occasions — it  always  comes  back  to  me--as  being  rather  like 
mausoleums,  but  I  think  many  of  them  wish  that  they  could 
design  a  couple  of  mausoleums  that  would  produce  the 
incredible  return,  which  is,  after  all,  what  an  architect 
or  a  designer  is  supposed  to  do,  in  my  opinion.   It  is  to 
serve  the  need  of  the  client. 

At  the  same  time,  I  have  to  say  unequivocally  that  I 
have  never  done  one  thing  on  those  buildings  to  compromise 
my  own  personal  understanding  or  taste.   If  the  buildings 
are  not  good,  it's  because  I  lack  whatever  they  lack.   I 
don't  wish  ever  to  suggest  that  the  client  has  put  me  into 
a  corner.   I've  always  taken  the  facts — the  particular  ter- 
rain where  a  building  is,  the  size  of  the  property,  the 
budget  that  is  involved,  and  the  use  of  the  building — into 
consideration,  and  I  have  done  the  best  job  I  can  knowing 
that  those  are  facts  I  must  deal  with. 

GOODWIN:   So  you  don't  try  and  cater  to  the  public's  image 
of  what  fine  art  is? 


SHEETS:   Not  at  all.   If  I  catered  at  all,  it's  to  my  own 
concept.   It  hasn't  changed  too  much,  although  I  would  have 
loved  to  have  had  more  flexibility.   One  time,  for  instance, 
I  complained  strongly  to  Mr.  Ahmanson.   I  didn't  really 
complain — I  just  in  a  very  enthusiastic  way  said,  "Howard, 
it's  time  that  we  grew  a  little  bit.   Let  me  do  three  or 
four  different  concepts  for  this  new  building.   It's  a  very 
important  building."   He  said,  "Fine,  go  ahead.   Let's  see 
what  you  do."   I  made  four  very  complete  designs  for  the 
same  building--that  is,  a  building  that  had  to  go  on  one 
spot--and  I  took  all  four  of  them  in.   He  looked  at  them 
with  very  serious  thought.   I  know  he  gave  them  a  great 
deal  of  consideration,  and  he  finally  ended  up  by  saying, 
"Millard,  I  like  all  of  them.   But  I'm  not  willing  to 
gamble,  to  change  the  image  to  the  extent  that  three  of 
these  buildings  do."   He  said,  "I'll  stick  with  this  fourth 
one,  which  is  a  little  nearer  what  we  do.   You  can  always 
have  latitude,  but  I  just  know  that  it's  foolish  for  us  to 
get  off  of  something  that  we  know  is  right.   The  image  is 
established.   Whether  all  people  like  it  or  not  isn't  the 
important  thing."   [laughter]   "Masses  of  people  who  put 
their  money  there  for  security  and  for  return  are,  after 
all,  the  reason  that  we've  spent  the  money  to  do  the 
buildings. " 

I  think  it's  an  interesting  lesson.   It  convinces  me 
that  to  simply  impose  a  personal  artist's  style  or  a  personal 


artist's  attitude  upon  all  problems,  regardless  of  what  the 
problem  is,  is  not  a  good  solution  to  a  problem.   I've  known 
some  marvelous  designers  whose  work  I  admire  tremendously, 
but  many  of  the  buildings  are  nonfunctional.   They  do  not 
produce  what  we're  talking  about  here  in  the  way  of  return 
in  a  free  enterprise  system  for  an  investment.   In  the 
private  home,  that's  a  totally  different  matter,  and  in 
many  other  instances  you  are  not  tied  down.   But  in  most 
instances,  you  are  tied  down  to  the  problem  that  someone 
is  going  to  invest  in  the  building.   They  buy  the  land, 
they  pay  for  the  building,  and  they  have  a  tremendous  amount 
of  money  involved.   I  think  it  is  the  duty  of  the  designer 
to  think  out  the  needs  and  the  solutions,  recognizing  that 
if  you  are  working  with  this  part  of  the  public  or  the  whole 
part  of  the  public,  which  in  this  case  we  are,  it  makes  a 
difference  how  you  solve  the  problem.   I  suppose  if  you're 
doing  a  museum  and  you're  appealing  primarily  to  a  certain 
type  of  sophistication,  that  you  might  have  a  chance  to  do 
certain  things  that  you  wouldn't  have  in  a  building  like 
this,  although  we  have  had  astounding  reactions  from  all 
sections  of  life,  and  that's  pleasing  to  me  as  a  designer. 
It  doesn't  tell  me  that  the  buildings  are  any  better,  but 
I  do  know  I've  solved  the  problem. 

GOODWIN:   What  are  the  various  steps  involved  in  building 
a  building,  as  far  as  you're  concerned? 
SHEETS:   The  first  problem — and  it's  getting  to  be  the  most 


difficult  headache  of  the  whole  business — is  the  limited 
terrain  you  have.   Of  course  it's  becoming  more  and  more 
necessary  to  get  a  great  deal  more  property  to  do  the  same 
thing  because  of  the  controls  now  that  are  imposed  upon 
every  building  by  new  requirements.   I'm  not  speaking  of 
the  safety  requirements  of  the  building  restrictions. 
Building  restrictions,  I  would  fight  to  agree  with  until 
the  last  dog  was  hung,  because  they're  safety  factors. 
But  when  you  get  into  aesthetics  and  into  questions  of 
taste,  the  new  kind  of  standards  that  are  being  set  up 
by,  often,  very  young  and  inexperienced  people,  or  people 
who  are  strictly  bureaucratic  in  their  approach,  become  so 
unreasonable.   Whereas  it  used  to  take  a  matter  of  months 
to  get  a  building  through  a  city,  generally  it  takes  a  year 
to  two  years  today.   The  commissions  seem  to  have  little  or 
no  interest  in  whether  you  ever  get  it  through  or  not.   It's 
a  strange  period  we're  going  through  of  bureaucratic  control, 

Now  the  parking  problem  has  become,  obviously,  one  of 
the  chief  problems.   I  can't  disagree  today  with  the 
requirements  that  are  laid  down  by  most  cities  for  parking. 
But  it's  astounding  how  much  more  property  you  have  to  have 
for  parking  than  you  have  for  building:   maybe  four-to-one 
or  five-to-one  or  sometimes  six-to-one,  depending  upon  the 
intensity  of  the  area.   These  are  all  problems  you  have  to 
face.   Before  you  can  think  about  anything  creatively,  you 
got  to  get  a  ground  plan  that  takes  up  so  much  space.   Now, 


we  know  that  an  office  that  is  going  to  have,  let's  say, 
twenty-four  windows  and  eighteen  new- account  desks  calls 
for  a  certain-sized  building.   We  know  before  we  even  start 
the  building  that  we  cannot  squeeze  extra  desks  and  windows 
into  anything  that  isn't  big  enough.   So  right  from  the 
start  we  know  the  building's  going  to  be,  let's  say,  90  x 
120.   That's  just  the  building.   Now,  the  moment  you  estab- 
lish that  the  percentage  of  usable  space  in  that  building 
dictates  the  number  of  cars  per  100  square  feet  in  the 
building,  so  you  have  to  multiply  or  divide  or  whatever  it 
is  and  get  your  number  of  cars.   Then  you've  got  to  figure 
ingress:   where  the  city  will  let  you  come  in  or  off  from 
the  street.   They're  getting  very  much  tougher  about  that 
all  the  time,  which  they  should,  because  of  the  safety 
factors.   I  would  never  fight  most  of  those  problems.   Once 
in  a  while  they're  unreasonable,  but  generally  speaking  I've 
found  that  that  kind  of  an  engineer  is  a  person  you  can  deal 
with.   They're  not  the  bureaucratic  boneheads  that  you  run 
into  on  the  architectural  design  committees. 

Most  of  these  people  came  out  of  one  school.   I  think 
we  mentioned  this,  didn't  we?   The  new  School  of  Architecture 
at  the  University  of  California  at  Berkeley  has  been  primarily 
turning  out  city  planners  and  people  who  have  only  one 
interest,  and  that  is  planning  the  future  of  everybody 
else's  life.   Most  of  them  are  not  trained  as  architects, 
even  though  they  claim  to  be,  and  they  have  a  very  inner 


clique  now  that  is  operating  in  almost  all  the  small  cities 
of  California,  and  they're  creeping  into  the  big  cities. 
These  people  who  have  graduated  primarily  from  that  school, 
where  they  have  really  been  doing  social  planning  more  than 
anything  else,  have  become  extremely  arbitrary  and  extremely 
tough  to  deal  with.   They've  got  so  much  support  from  the 
ecologists  today,  the  ecologists  not  understanding  entirely 
what  they're  supporting,  but  they  get  backing  that  gives 
them  the  possibility  of  really  putting  people  into  corners. 

I  had  a  recent  experience  with  one  of  these  fairly 
good-sized  cities,  in  how  one  of  these  planners  operates. 
Now,  you  must  go  and  see  them  perhaps  two  months  before  you 
submit  even  your  first  rough,  preliminary  concept  in  order 
to  pay  lip  service  to  them  and  also  to  get  whatever  ideas 
they  will  give  you,  which  are  very  guarded  because  they 
don't  want  to  be  responsible  for  anything  that  you  do;  they 
just  want  to  be  a  critic.   That's  easy,  you  know,  if  you 
get  guys  coming  back  ten  times,  twelve  times,  or  fifteen 
times,  and  I  made  seventeen  trips  in  one  of  these  cities 
before  I  got  the  design  through.   It  was  bureaucratic  con- 
trol, and  never  any  advice,  always  criticism.   It  is  getting 
more  arbitrary  and  more  arbitrary.   During  the  early  stages 
of  that  particular  experience,  I  said,  "Now,  where  are  the 
rules  in  your  building  setup  here  in  the  city  that  say  this 
has  to  be  and  that  has  to  be  and  this  cannot  be?"   He  said, 
"We  don't  have  any  of  them."   I  said,  "What  power  do  you 


have?"   He  answered,  "Well,  if  you  want  to  get  'this  thing 
through  the  city,  you'll  do  it  the  way  we  want  it  or  else 
you're  not  going  to  get  it  through.   We'll  create  too  many 
roadblocks  for  you."   Now,  that's  pretty  threatening,  and 
it's  pretty  sad,  too,  and  it's  pretty  shocking  in  terms  of 
our  times.   I'm  not  speaking  only  about  my  problems;  I'm 
speaking  about  every  single  architect  and  designer  I  know. 
They  are  just  going  crazy. 

Then,  of  course,  the  Coastal  Commission  was  infinitely 
worse.   That  added  a  totally  new  dimension  to  the  problem 
because  they  were  taking  upon  themselves  responsibilities 
and  decisions  that  they  were  absolutely  out  of  range  on. 
They  didn't  know  what  they  were  doing,  and  they  were  so 
arbitrary,  and  they  stopped  more  good  things  from  happening 
than  you  can  believe. 

You  have  to  consider  all  these  things  in  answering  your 
question,  which  was,  "What  are  the  first  things?"   Well, 
first  you  have  to  be  sure  you're  meeting  all  the  standards-- 
or  not  even  standards;  they're  requirements.   Sometimes 
they're  good  standards,  and  sometimes  they're  arbitrary. 

Well,  then,  from  that  point  on,  the  fun  begins.   Then 
it's  really  exciting.   You  say  we're  going  to  work  in  this 
area  along  this  line  because  it  fits  into  the  community.   We 
don't  always  copy  the  style  of  the  other  people;  I  don't 
mean  that.   But  I  wouldn't  want  to  put  a  very  polished 
granite  or  marble  building  in  the  middle  of  an  area  that's 


surrounded  with  a  bunch  of  brick  and  wood  and  plaster,  though 
sometimes  we  do.   Even  in  those  areas,  if  we  have  a  separate 
site  that's  so  completely  by  itself,  with  nothing  around  it, 
we  can  do  it.   But  we  try  to  fit  in,  not  only  in  subject 
matter  for  the  art  end  of  it  but  in  the  materials  we  use. 

We're  doing  a  building  right  now  that  is  going  to  be  a 
dark  brick,  which  we  haven't  ever  used  before,  because  the 
buildings  around  it  are  mostly  dark  brick,  and  we  like  to 
fit  in.   We  don't  want  to  be  a  sore  thumb.   On  the  other 
hand,  we're  not  going  to  lose  our  image,  either.   We're 
going  to  keep  the  forms  that  will  make  it  work.   So  your 
function  is  first,  after  you  get  all  the  long-range  planning 
out  of  the  way. 

After  you  get  the  function  inside  operating,  then  the 
outside  nearly  always  grows  pretty  simply  and  clearly — the 
choice  of  materials,  the  size  of  openings,  the  amount  of 
decoration — and  then  I'm  always  involved  completely  with 
the  planting  as  well  as  the  furnishings. 
GOODWIN:   Do  the  people  that  work  for  you  do  the  plans? 
SHEETS:   I  do  all  of  the  designing,  every  bit  of  it.   I 
detail  everything,  but  I  have  marvelous  people  working  with 
me  who  put  it  all  down  in  final  working  drawings.   In  the 
old  days  we  did  everything.   At  one  time  I  had  four  archi- 
tects working  for  me  and  about  ten  draftsmen  and  engineers. 
We  did  the  whole  thing  right  in  our  office.   But  as  time 
has  gone  on,  I  have  been  working  with  Home  Savings  in  a 


new  dimension.   I'm  now  the  director  of  their  design  program. 
I  still  design  the  buildings,  and  I  have  my  own  staff.   I 
have  two  architects,  who  are  excellent  collaborators  with 
me,  and  they  finish  up  the  preliminary  phases  of  the  design, 
which  I  present  to  the  client.   When  those  are  approved, 
then  I  associate  with  an  outside  architect,  generally  in 
the  vicinity  where  we  do  the  building.   If  it's  in  the  north, 
we  try  to  work  with  architects  in  the  north,  for  obvious 
reasons:   it's  good  for  them,  they  know  the  problems,  and 
they  can  take  the  plans  in  and  push  them  through  the  building 
department.   They  can  do  the  supervision  in  the  early  part 
of  the  work,  when  you're  excavating  and  putting  in  all  your 
rough  framing  and  steel  and  all  that.   Then  I  do  all  the 
supervision  for  the  final  stages,  when  we  put  in  all  the 
final  finishes  and  the  landscaping. 

GOODWIN:   Is  there  a  so-called  art  budget  for  each  building? 
SHEETS:   Well,  fortunately.  Home  Savings  has  never  ever 
wanted  to  segregate  it.   Now  that's  not  true  of  most  cor- 
porations, believe  me.   That's  why  I  think  Home  is  so  very 
unusual  in  having  continued  this  approach  for  some  twenty- 
six  or  -seven  years  now.   They've  never  backed  away  from  the 
idea  that  the  arts  were  essential,  since  they  proved  to  be 
good  in  the  first  two  or  three  buildings.   They  have  never 
backed  away  from  this.   And  even  though  Mr.  Ahmanson  died 
ten  or  more  years  ago,  his  nephews,  Bill  and  Bob  Ahmanson, 
and  other  members  of  the  board  who've  carried  on  have  never 


wavered,  really  at  all,  in  the  idea  of  the  importance  of 
the  arts.   We  don't  really  have  a  set  budget.   They  know 
that  I  am  going  to  use  it  only  where  I  think  it's  going  to 
do  us  the  most  good.   I  would  never  just  pad  it  with  any- 
thing, but  wherever  I  think  that  we  can  get  a  good  public 
response  to  catch  attention,  we'll  use  it.   We  do  probably 
as  much  on  the  outside  as  we  do  on  the  inside,  if  not  more, 
for  that  reason:   that  it  gives  the  passerby  a  sense  of 
what  is  going  on  inside,  and  inside,  we  make  it  as  beautiful 
as  we  can. 

I  can't  overstate  the  importance  of  the  landscaping, 
because  we  try,  when  we  open  a  building,  to  make  it  look 
like  it's  been  there  for  fifteen  or  twenty  years  and  not 
like  it's  a  freshly  planted  building.   We  buy  beautiful, 
big  trees  and  spend  a  great  deal  of  time  and  a  great  deal 
of  money  moving  them.   We  bring  them  into  the  community  as 
though  they've  really  been  established  for  a  long  time. 
People  appreciate  this  very  much,  the  public  as  a  whole. 
Certainly  it  makes  it  more  fun  for  me  because  landscaping 
is  just  as  much  a  part  of  the  building  as  all  the  interior 
furnishings.   That's  why  I  do  them  all  in  my  office. 
GOODWIN:   Can  you  give  me  some  idea  of  costs?   What  do  you 
spend  on  mosaics  and  sculpture  and  things  like  that,  com- 
pared to  the  overall  expenses? 

SHEETS:   Let's  just  take  one  figure,  for  example.   Let's 
say  the  building  costs  a  million  dollars.   Of  course  in 


the  old  days,  our  buildings  didn't  cost  anything  like  that. 
The  first  building  we  built  in  Beverly  Hills,  I  know  that 
we  built  for  under  twenty  dollars  a  square  foot,  including 
all  of  the  art,  but  that  was  twenty-six  years  ago.   Our 
buildings  today  run  probably  in  the  area  of  around  thirty- 
six  to  thirty-eight  dollars,  including  the  art,  per  square 
foot.   I  would  say  that,  on  a  million  dollar  building,  we 
would  probably  spend  in  the  neighborhood  of  $80,000  for 
art.   Now  that  would  include  the  mosaics.   It  would  include 
whatever  murals  or  tapestries  were  inside,  and  it  would 
include  stained-glass  windows. 

We  use  a  great  many  stained-glass  windows.   I  did  it 
sort  of  as  a  fluky  idea  in  the  first  building  because  I 
always  wanted  to  make  a  stained-glass  window,  and  I  thought 
it  would  be  fun  to  do  a  window  showing  different  periods  of 
barter  in  the  ancient  days.   I  never  thought  I'd  be  doing 
more  than  one  of  these  things.   I  used  the  theme  of  money 
and  bartering,  and  the  development  of  money.   I  had  some 
beautiful  engraved  glass  panels.   Then  I  had  bartering  done 
in  stained  glass  as  a  frame  around  these  money  symbols, 
from  the  ancient  Egyptian  coming  on  through  into  all  the 
different  cultures.   Well,  the  response  to  stained  glass 
was  surprising.   I'd  always  thought  of  it  as  being  primarily 
something  that  would  go  into  a  church  or  a  synagogue  or  in 
a  building  of  that  kind,  but  not  at  all.   The  public  just 
simply  reacts  to  the  stained  glass  as  a  most  exciting  sort 


of  a  thing.   I  think  the  color  is  what  does  it  and  the 
brilliance  of  the  glass.   There's  hardly  a  building  that 
doesn't  have  major  stained  glass.   I've  just  finished  one 
in  San  Francisco,  and  I  saw  the  glass  up  in  place  last 
Friday.   It's  probably  fifty  feet  wide,  though  it  isn't 
completely  solid--there  are  some  clear,  interesting  spaces 
in  it — but  it's  about  thirty  feet  high.   Now,  that's  a  huge 

The  most  exciting  thing  about  these  windows  to  me  is 
that  one  of  the  young  ladies  [Susan  Hertel]  who  has  worked 
with  me  for  twenty-four  years  does  all  the  stained-glass 
designing  now.   She  does  all  of  the  execution  of  it  along 
with  the  glass  man  who's  been  here  in  Pasadena  a  long  time, 
John  Wallace.   She  makes  the  original  design  in  color  on  a 
scale  sketch.   Then  she  blows  the  thing  up  full  size  into 
a  full-size  cartoon.   Then  she  takes  the  cartoon,  after 
having  broken  it  down  into  every  shape  of  every  piece  of 
glass  and  all  the  leading  and  everything  else,  into  the 
Wallace  studio,  and  she  picks  every  single  color  out  of 
probably  more  than  a  thousand  colors  which  she  has  there 
to  select  from.   Then  after  the  glass  is  cut  and  mounted 
with  hot  wax  on  a  huge  plate  glass  she  goes  in  and  does 
all  of  the  painting  on  the  glass,  freehand,  just  looking 
at  her  sketch.   She's  a  master,  really,  at  both  the  drawing 
and  design.   Then  after  she  finishes  doing  the  painting, 
the  glass  is  fired.   That  paint  that  she  uses  is  not  paint. 


of  course;  it's  really  a  black  glass  powder,  and  it's  put 
on  with  sugar  water,  which,  mixed  with  this  glass  powder, 
makes  a  thick  little  paste  that  you  can  paint  with.   Then 
when  that  goes  into  the  electric  kiln,  it  fires  and  becomes 
an  integral  part  of  the  glass.   It  can  never  be  removed; 
it's  a  finished,  permanent  thing.   Then  it's  leaded  and  put 
into  the  window  frames  and  then  taken  out  on  the  job.   It's 
a  complete  process.   But  that's  become  one  of  the  most 
fascinating  things  in  our  buildings,  I  think,  from  the 
public  point  of  view. 

We  work  very  much  also  with  tapestries,  and  people  do 
respond  to  them.   Those  are  woven  either  in  Aubusson  in 
France  or  in  Portugal.   We've  done  a  great  deal  of  work 
with  tapestries. 

We  also  work  in  ceramic  tile;  we've  done  some  huge 
murals,  both  at  Home  Savings  and  in  other  places.   I 
developed  some  special  glazes  with  some  very  fine  ceramic 
engineers  over  a  period  of  about  nine  years  when  I  was  the 
head  of  design  for  the  Interpace  Corporation.   We  were  doing 
experimental  work,  and  as  a  result  of  that,  we  were  able, 
literally,  to  paint  in  glaze,  which  is  something  that's 
never  been  done  before  by  anyone.   There  have  been  marvelous 
things  done  in  Persia  and  all  over  the  world  in  clay  and 
tile,  but  the  glazes  were  all  underglazes,  meaning  that 
they  put  on  a  kind  of  a  slip  glaze,  and  it  was  all  fairly 
narrow  in  color  range.   They  did  get  some  beautiful  blues. 


brilliant  yellows,  and  reds,  but  they  were  slip  glaze  and 
they  were  very  low  fire.   Then  on  top  of  that  they  put  a 
shield  of  glass  painted  on,  which,  when  fired,  protected 
this  slip  glaze.   That's  a  technique  that's  ancient.   It 
goes  back  a  couple  of  thousand  years  at  least,  probably 
more  like  3,000  or  4,000.   But  for  the  first  time  we  were 
able  to  develop  a  full  palette.   Any  color  that  you've 
ever  seen  in  paint,  we  were  able  to  develop  and  to  make 
a  one-fire  proposition  out  of  it,  which  was  just  unheard 
of  before.   For  instance,  they  could  never  fire  the  best 
reds  at  the  same  temperature  that  they  would  fire  a  blue. 
One  or  the  other  would  give  up  the  ghost  and  disappear  or 
turn  into  another  color.   It  took  us  years  to  do  this,  but 
we  developed  it.   What  these  ceramic  engineers  did  is  an 
incredible  accomplishment.   They  accomplished  it  mainly 
because  I  goaded  them  into  it,  and  also  they  had  the  com- 
pany to  back  it  and  they  spent  hundreds  of  thousands  of 
dollars  in  research  on  this  project.   So  I  was  able  to 
take  advantage  of  those  things,  and  we've  done  some  big 
ceramic  murals. 

GOODWIN:   It  sounds  like  many  of  the  media  used  in  Home 
Savings  buildings — stained  glass,  mosaics,  tapestries — 
are  media  of,  as  you  suggested,  the  medieval  world, 
churches  and  so  on. 

SHEETS:   That's  right,  that's  absolutely  true. 
GOODWIN:   But  on  the  other  hand,  I'm  reminded  of  the  fact 


that  Picasso  and  Miro  and  Matisse  and  Chagall  and  Leger, 
all  these  people,  have  revived  many  of  the  same  media. 
SHEETS:   Absolutely.   I  think  that's  the  exciting  thing 
about  modern  painting  and  modern  art.   When  painting  became 
so  completely  photographic,  as  it  did  toward  the  end  of  the 
nineteenth  century,  and  modern  art  developed  as  a  revolution 
against  that  slavery  to  the  eye,  along  with  it  came  a 
tremendous,  renewed  interest  in  primitive  art,  as  you  well 
know,  influence  of  the  African  art,  the  influence  of  the 
early,  early,  early  Renaissance  and  before,  going  way  back 
into  archaic  Greece  and  archaic  China  and  everywhere  else. 
I  think  that,  naturally,  as  the  artists  went  back  for 
inspiration — and  they  did,  no  question  about  it — they  became 
much  more  concerned  with  the  beauties  of  Byzantine  architec- 
ture and  Byzantine  sculpture  and  Romanesque,  and  also  in 
the  materials  in  which  these  great  art  works  were  expressed. 
There  has  been  a  tremendous  revival . 

What  makes  me  sad  is  that  it  isn't  an  integral  part 
of  education  again.   Now  they  do  teach  a  lot  of  ceramics, 
but  mostly  a  very  limited  view  of  that  field.   It's  not  a 
limited  field — it's  a  fantastic  field.   They  do  teach 
occasionally  a  little  bit  of  piddling  stained  glass.   Most 
of  the  sculpture  is  abstract  and  welded  or  carved  out  of 
wood  or  something.   But  to  get  back  to  the  point  where  they 
make  people  free,  they  just  aren't  doing  enough  of  it, 
because  these  materials  mean  extra  opportunities  for 


artists.   The  more  materials  you  work  in  and  the  more  you 
understand  and  master,  to  a  degree  at  least,  the  more 
exciting  your  possibilities  are  as  a  human  being,  as  an 
artist  to  meet  special  needs. 

I  remember  all  my  life  that  people  have  come  to  me 
with  problems  that  were  completely  outside  of  my  realm. 
It's  appalling  if  you're  reaching  out  how  these  things 
come  towards  you  without  any  soliciting  on  your  part. 
I've  always  felt  it's  an  exciting  challenge.   Well,  how 
did  an  artist  handle  this  material?   The  only  way  to  find 
out  is  to  do  it,  and  you  do  it.   I  think  I  described  that 
to  you  in  painting  fresco.   I'd  never  painted  a  fresco 
until  I  won  a  competition,  and  then  you  read  a  book  and 
figure  out  a  few  logical  things  and  you  go  about  it.   But 
that  should  be  part  of  an  artist's  education. 
GOODWIN:   Which  of  the  several  Home  Savings  buildings  have 
you  enjoyed  doing  the  most?  Which  are  the  ones  you  think 
are  the  most  successful? 

SHEETS:   Well,  from  the  point  of  view  of  putting  ideas  and 
building  and  function  together,  I  think  maybe  the  one  in 
Hollywood.   The  one  at  Sunset  and  Vine  is  a  good  one  because 
there  we  happened  to  have  a  site  which  was  the  particular 
site  where  the  first  full-length  motion  picture  was  made 
in  Hollywood.   So  without  having  to  search  too  much  for 
themes,  we  decided  that  we'd  make  motion  pictures  the  theme 
of  the  art  in  the  building.   I  designed  a  semiabstract 


arrangement  on  the  front  of  the  building,  underneath  the 
overhang.   I  made  some  very  simple  stripes  of  figures  with 
an  organic  sort  of  a  movement  through  them.   Then  between  those 
were  black  granite  panels,  vertical  stripes  that  had  hundreds 
of  names  carved  into  them  in  gold  of  the  great  stars  in 
Hollywood.   So  it's  a  little  bit  like  the  history  of  Hollywood, 
just  to  go  stand  in  front  and  read  the  names.   But  between 
the  names  are  many  portraits,  full-length  figure  portraits 
of  some  of  the  greatest  stars.   This  was  a  hell  of  a  problem 
because  it  isn't  too  difficult  to  cut  a  head  or  do  a  figure 
in  mosaic,  but  when  we  found  ourselves  trying  to  do  por- 
traits of  people  that  everybody  in  the  world  knows  through 
motion  picture,  it  was  a  hell  of  a  challenge.   It  was  very 
exciting  because  I  think  we  did  keep  them  as  works  of  art, 
solid  and  simple.   At  the  same  time  they  do  work,  and  people 
do  know  who  they  are.   There  are  some  of  those  also  on  the 
rear  side  of  the  building. 

On  the  interior.  Sue  Hertel ,  this  young  gal  whom  I 
mentioned  worked  for  me,  did  a  stained-glass  window  that 
I  think  is  one  of  the  most  exciting  windows,  one  of  the 
best  I've  ever  seen.   We  were  fooling  around  for  ideas  or 
subject  matter,  and  I  said,  "Sue,  I've  got  a  great  idea, 
the  chase.   All  of  the  early  pictures  somebody  was  chasing 
somebody.   The  Indians  were  chasing  the  cowboys  and  vice 
versa,  and  in  the  Mac  Sennett  comedies,  everybody  was 
chasing  everybody.   Buster  Keaton  was  being  chased.   Even 


Moby  Dick  was  being  chased.   Let's  do  it  like  a  series  of 
film  strips,  some  big  and  wide  and  strong  and  some  narrower, 
and  we'll  show  the  little  perforations  along  the  edge  of 
the  strip  to  suggest  that  it  is  film.   Then  in  a  very 
abstract  way,  let's  do  this  whole  window  just  full,  again, 
of  the  kind  of  thing  that  made  motion  pictures  what  they 
were  in  the  early  days."   That's  one  that  everybody  admires. 
It's  been  reproduced  in  all  sorts  of  magazines  all  over  the 
country.   The  tourist  agencies  run  busloads  of  people  out 
there  every  week  in  Tanner  buses  to  look  at  the  building 
because  it's  a  kind  of  a  landmark  now.   I  painted  a  mural 
on  the  inside  with  the  theme  of  the  actual  shooting  of  the 
first  full-length  picture  ever  made  in  Hollywood.   That 
building  has  become  a  kind  of  a  landmark  in  many  ways  for 
a  lot  of  people. 

It  has  a  big  pool  out  in  front,  and  I  was  able  to  buy 
an  early  [Paul]  Manship  sculpture  which  he  did  for  an  estate 
in  Delaware.   Some  of  the  owners  died,  and  we  were  able  to 
buy  the  sculpture.   We  had  it  in  storage  for  about  six  or 
eight  years  before  I  decided  how  to  use  it.   I  built  a 
special  fountain  on  the  corner,  a  great  place  for  hippies 
(in  the  worst  of  the  hippie  days)  to  wash  their  feet,  but 
finally  they  outgrew  that.   But  it's  a  fun  building. 

Of  course,  the  original  building  I  like.   But  there 
are  many;  they're  so  different. 
GOODWIN:   What  is  your  role  in  designing  a  mosaic? 


SHEETS:   1  have  designed  most  of  the  mosaics  myself  com- 
pletely, and  Sue,  in  these  latter  years,  has  done  a  few 
mosaics  herself.   She's  marvelous.   She  does  the  most 
beautiful  work.   But  I've  designed  most  all  of  them,  which 
means  that  I  make  a  small  sketch,  a  color  sketch  in  scale, 
an  inch  to  a  foot.   I  then  blow  it  up  full  size.   Sue  has 
always  helped  me  tremendously  on  the  cartoons.   We  work 
together  so  closely  that  we  don't  know  where  one  works  and 
the  other  leaves  off,  really,  we've  worked  so  long  together 
Then  with  my  color  sketch  she  goes  into  the  mosaic  studio 
every  day  and  checks  on  the  color  that  the  cutters  are 
using,  so  that  they  can't  get  it  out  of  value  or  out  of 
color.   That's  been  our  routine  for  twenty-some  years  be- 
cause we've  been  making  our  own  mosaics  for  over  twenty 
years.   We  started  out  by  having  them  made  in  Italy.   I 
used  to  go  over  to  Italy  and  give  them  the  cartoons  and 
the  color  sketches. 
GOODWIN:   In  Venice? 

SHEETS:   In  Venice  mostly  and  once  or  twice  in  Germany. 
They  did  very  good  work,  but  having  our  own  studio  is  the 
exciting  thing  to  me,  having  young  people  coming  along. 
We  show  them  a  sketch,  then  we  give  them  a  very  finished 
cartoon  from  which  they  make  the  tracings  on  which  they 
actually  paste  their  glass.   After  they  reach  a  certain 
point,  it  becomes  a  very  creative  process,  and  there's  as 
much  quality  that  comes  out  of  their  skill  and  imagination 


as  there  is  in  whatever  we  have  as  a  basic  design.   The 
basic  design  isn't  going  to  change,  but  the  quality  of 
the  cutting  makes  for  the  excitement  within  it.   Of  course, 
in  the  days  of  Byzantium,  when  you  cut  each  piece  and  just 
pushed  it  into  a  piece  of  wet  cement,  you  had  a  fresh 
quality  that  was  magnificent.   You  could  tilt  each  glass 
a  little  and  pick  up  a  little  different  facet  of  light, 
particularly  in  the  golds.   That's  a  marvelous  quality. 
But  there's  no  way  that  this  can  be  done  today,  where  a 
building  is  being  built  for  a  year  or  a  year  and  a  quarter. 
You  wouldn't  even  get  a  wall  to  work  on  until  the  last 
matter  of  weeks,  at  the  most.   Some  of  these  mosaics  take 
us  six  or  eight  months  to  execute  in  my  studio.   So  the 
only  way  to  do  it  is  to  do  it  on  paper  and  then  have  a 
very  top  craftsman  put  it  up.   We  have  been  able  over  a 
period  of  time  to  develop  the  kind  of  people  to  do  that 
expertly.   It's  a  very  interesting  process  putting  all 
these  different  kinds  of  people  together.   Preparing  the 
wall  even  before  we  get  to  it  is  important  as  a  part  of 
the  building  construction,  because  you  can't  apply  a  mosaic 
to  a  cement  wall  without  proper  preparation  of  the  wall. 
Everything  has  to  be  done  exactly  right:   the  thickness 
when  the  finished  wall  is  done  must  fit  the  moldings  or 
other  surfaces  that  it  comes  against.   It's  a  very  intricate 
problem,  but  exciting. 
GOODWIN:   What  are  your  methods  as  far  as  developing  a 


design  for,  say,  a  mural  program?   Do  you  struggle  with  an 
idea  and  arrange  and  rearrange  it  or  do  you  more  or  less 
flash  on  what  you  want  and  it's  there? 

SHEETS:   Well,  as  you  get  more  experienced  you  flash  a 
little  more,  but  I've  never  found  a  time  it  wasn't  to  a 
certain  degree  a  struggle.   If  you  don't  struggle,  you 
aren't  growing.   I  don't  try  to  repeat,  although  I  do  some 
things  that,  I  suppose,  look  like  repeats.   First  of  all,  I 
try  to  decide  on  an  area  that's  going  to  be  exciting,  the 
shape  of  the  area,  whatever  it  is,  because  we  just  don't  do 
rectangles,  we  do  vignettes;  we  do  all  sorts  of  things  to 
fit  into  the  building  and  on  the  building.   Then  I  discuss 
with  myself  the  best  subject  matter  for  that  building  in 
that  particular  locale.   Now  we're  working  a  great  deal  in 
northern  California  and  central  California  and  down  in  San 
Diego  and  all  over  the  state,  which  gives  us  a  lot  of  range 
in  differences  of  subject  matter.   Once  you  decide  on  the 
subject  matter,  then  a  good  deal  of  it  just  comes  naturally 
out  of  your  head  from  having  been  working  with  certain  types 
of  subject  matter.   I  generally  try  to  get  my  basic,  central 
forms,  whatever  they  are,  placed  in  an  interesting  way,  and 
then  begin  to  build  around  them.   Or  if  I  have  to  do  research, 
very  often  I'm  very  excited  about  something  I  find  in  there. 
Maybe  I  have  a  totally  new  concept  of  what  I  really  wanted 
the  centers  to  be. 

GOODWIN:   Does  that  mean  you  go  to  a  library  and  look  up  the 
history  of  an  area? 


SHEETS:   Oh,  yes,  you  bet,  absolutely.   But  not  only  that. 
I  have  a  very  large  library  up  in  my  studio  up  north. 
Because  of  this  purpose,  it's  essential;  it's  absolutely 
essential  to  have  material  without  always  having  to  chase 
it.   I  buy  books  continuously.   Whenever  I  have  a  new  job 
that  requires  something,  rather  than  go  to  the  library,  I 
just  buy  whatever  number  of  books  I  can  get  on  the  subject, 
Sometimes  I  just  read  the  text;  sometimes  there  are  inter- 
esting photographs  of  the  period  or  something  that  gives 
you  the  costume  or  the  mechanics  of  the  life.   If  it's 
wagons  or  whatever,  you  want  to  be  reasonably  right.   But 
similarly,  you  don't  want  to  be  handicapped  by  that  infor- 
mation.  So  it's  a  case  of  putting  the  two  together, 
creatively  and  imaginatively,  and  at  the  same  time  not 
doing  something  that's  going  to  offend  somebody  who  thinks 
he's  an  authority  on  the  period.   But  books  are  essential, 
and  research  is  essential.   I've  been  doing  a  tremendous 
amount  of  that  recently  for  San  Francisco.   I'm  doing  a 
mural  inside  that  is  a  series  of  ideas  that  depict  the 
history  of  the  city,  and  then  on  the  outside  we're  doing 
some  mosaics.   That's  all  fun,  and  it  seems  to  come  out 

GOODWIN:   Are  there  any  other  Home  Savings  buildings  we 
should  mention  as  being  particularly  intriguing? 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  think  the  one  in  San  Francisco  that  we're 
just  finishing  is  going  to  be  very  intriguing.   It's  going 


to  have  this  huge  stained-glass  window  that  I  mentioned. 
It  will  have  these  two  different  historical  things:   on 
the  inside,  the  painted  mural;  and  then  on  the  outside, 
the  mosaics.   We  hope  to  have  all  original  paintings  from 
San  Francisco  artists  on  the  inside.   I'm  in  the  process 
of  getting  ready  to  buy  some  of  those  now,  so  that  we'll 
bring  as  much  as  we  can  of  the  flavor  of  the  city,  con- 
temporary and  past,  into  it. 

We're  doing  a  very,  very  exciting  job  in  San  Diego 
right  now.   We've  done  one  out  in  the  desert  at  Barstow 
that  I  think  really  fits  into  the  community.   We  did  one 
in  Victorville  many,  many  years  ago  that  still  holds  up 
very  well  for  the  desert.   We've  adjusted  to  the  areas. 
We've  done  a  temporary  job  in  Santa  Maria  that  I  like  very 
much.   I  think  it  really  fits,  and  the  response  of  the 
public  has  been  fantastic.   We've  done  them  all  over.   It's 
hard  to  select  one  right  off  the  top  of  my  head  because 
there's  so  many.   We've  done  big  office  buildings  in  some 
locations  where  we  use  the  lower  floor  for  Home  Savings, 
and  of  course  we've  done  lots  of  single  buildings.   We've 
very  often  done  things  like  the  one  in  Hollywood,  which  is 
just  a  small,  two-story  building,  backed  up  by  a  huge  sky- 
scraper and  surrounded  by  a  very  tall  building.   It  sits 
there  almost  like  a  little,  special  plum,  and  it  works. 
GOODWIN:   How  long  are  the  buildings  built  to  last? 
SHEETS:   Well,  that's  a  good  question.   I  think  that  most 


buildings  today  are  built,  at  the  most,  for  100  years.   It 
seems  a  shame  to  talk  and  think  like  that.   I  think  they 
would  last  longer  than  that.   They  probably  would  last  a 
couple  of  hundred  years  with  a  basic  concrete  building  or 
with  the  steel  and  brick  and  other  construction.   Some  of 
them  would  last  a  lot  longer  than  that,  but  I  doubt  very 
much  if  the  function  of  the  building  would  stay  the  same. 


JANUARY  11,  1977 

SHEETS:   You  asked  the  question,  George,  "How  long  would 
these  buildings  last?"   I  think  physically  they  could  last 
at  least  a  couple  of  hundred  years,  but  it's  my  belief  that 
the  function  will  change  radically  in  banking.   I  think  that 
a  time  will  come  when  there  will  be  so  much  more  done  elec- 
tronically than  is  done  today  that  it  won't  be  necessary  to 
deal  with  a  number  of  people  going  in  and  out  of  a  building, 
as  we  do  today.   I  don't  even  have  the  imagination  to  know 
how  far  we'll  go,  but  it  may  all  be  done  over  the  telephone 
eventually,  with  special  electronic  devices.   As  it  is  today, 
you  can  go  in  any  Home  Savings  branch,  even  without  your 
book,  and  they  can  tell  you  in  a  matter  of  about  twelve 
seconds  exactly  how  much  you  have  on  deposit.   You  can 
deposit  money  in  San  Francisco  and  have  it  credited  to  your 
account  in  Los  T^geles  instantly.   It's  all  done  by  computer, 
as  you  know.   I've  seen  so  much  change  even  in  the  last  ten 
years  of  the  twenty-six  or  -seven  years,  where  our  function 
is  changing  the  nature  of  what  we  need.   So  whereas  the 
building  might  stand,  it  might  not  be  a  savings  and  loan 
building  in  fifty  or  so  years.   I  have  no  way  of  knowing. 
But  I  don't  think  most  commercial  buildings  are  thought  of 
as  being  more  than  century  buildings. 
GOODWIN:   Do  you  have  any  thoughts,  some  night  when  you 


can't  sleep,  about  what's  going  to  happen  to  all  those  art 


SHEETS:   It  is  a  kind  of  a  strange  feeling,  when  you  think 

back  on  the  hundreds  and  thousands  of  years  that  some 

buildings  have  lasted.   But  on  the  other  hand,  I  know  that 

probably  hundreds  of  thousands  of  buildings  done  in  those 

periods  disappeared  because  they  weren't  important  enough 

as  works  of  art,  as  expressions  of  a  society,  for  people 

to  protect  them  that  long.   So  I  think  everybody  has  to 

sort  of  take  that  into  consideration,  as  much  as  you'd 

like  to  see  some  of  these  things  last  longer.   It's  probably 

survival  of  the  fittest  in  the  long  run,  any  way. 

GOODWIN:   When  we  first  began  discussing  your  work  with  Home 

Savings,  you  said  that  you  were  the  toughest  critic  of  some 

of  the  work  you've  done.   You  could  offer  the  best  criticism. 

SHEETS:   Oh,  I  believe  so.   I  believe  so.   I  think  that  if 

you  aren't,  you  aren't  growing.   If  you're  satisfied  that 

everything  you've  done  is  all  right,  it  would  be  a  terrible 

thing.   I  don't  ever  feel  that.   I  feel  that  I'm  sometimes 

very  pleased  that  I've  been  able  to  do  as  well  as  I've  done, 

but  I  think  that  I  know  my  mistakes  more  quickly  than  anyone 


GOODWIN:   What  would  you  do  over  if  you  had  the  opportunity 

or  the  need?   What  would  you  modify,  perhaps? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I'll  give  you  just  an  illustration.   I  did 

a  building  in  Santa  Monica  [2600  Wilshire  Boulevard]  which 


is  a  fairly  good-sized  building.   1  had  a  front  elevation 
that  was  turned  exactly  at  a  4  5-degree  angle  to  the  corner, 
then  two  wings  that  came  forward.   They  didn't  go  straight 
across,  like  many  of  our  45-degree  corner  buildings  have 
done.   I'm  not  objecting  to  that  at  all.   But  instead  of 
doing,  as  I  generally  do,  smaller,  vig'netted  mosaics  in 
the  middle  of  perhaps  a  dark  colored  granite  or  something, 
I  did  a  whole  panel.   It's  one  of  the  biggest  ones  we've 
done.   We  actually  used  the  same  plans  twice.   We  used  it 
in  Anaheim  as  well  as  in  Santa  Monica,  though  we  had  totally 
different  themes  in  the  mosaic  in  Santa  Monica  than  in  the 
one  in  Anaheim.   I  would  never  do  it  again.   It's  too  much 
mosaic.   It's  too  much  in  a  rectangle.   It's  like  an  over- 
sized painting.   I  wince  every  time  I  go  by  it.   Now, 
people  like  the  mosaic,  and  I  don't  think  it's  one  of  the 
greatest,  but  it's  a  satisfactory  mosaic.   Certainly  I 
designed  it--so  I  haven't  anybody  to  blame  but  myself. 
But  I  would  never  do  that  again,  because  I  think  it's  far 
too  separate  from  the  building,  and  it  should  never  be 
separate.   It  should  be  an  integral  part. 

I  like  the  mosaic  best,  for  instance,  in  Pasadena. 
I  think  we  have  some  perfectly  beautiful  mosaics.   They're 
long,  narrow  panels.   They're  vertical,  and  they  are  rec- 
tangular.  We  used  some  Persian  poetry  translated  into 
English.   There  are  some  tall  cypress  trees  with  figures 
and  some  poetry  at  the  bottom.   They  just  seem  to  be 


beautiful  on  that  building,  and  they're  not  overpowering. 
You  could  pass  by  and  maybe  not  see  them  or  if  you  wanted 
to  look,  they're  there.   I  kind  of  like  that  feeling  more 
and  more  all  the  time  and  seem  less  and  less  concerned 
about  the  size  of  things,  but  more  about  what  they  do. 
Now,  that's  a  criticism. 

I  think  in  some  cases  maybe  I'd  like  to  have  seen  it 
a  little  taller  for  its  width.  Sometimes  you're  bound  by 
the  darned  rules  and  regulations  that  tell  you,  you  can't 
build  it  over  twenty-four  feet  or  twenty-eight  or  thirty- 
two  or  something  else.  You  can't  always  control  that,  but 
you  can  make  a  stab  at  it. 

In  the  materials,  we've  used  basically  good  materials. 
By  that  1  mean  lasting  materials.   One  of  the  reasons  that 
our  buildings  hold  up  well  is  they  don't  have  to  be  repainted 
every  five,  eight,  ten  years.   If  they're  in  fine  materials, 
they  last;  they  don't  even  need  cleaning  for  thirty  years. 
For  instance,  we  have  a  painting  contract  as  a  rule  in  our 
buildings  counting  everything  on  the  inside.   It  probably 
wouldn't  go  over  three  or  four  thousand  dollars  on  a  half- 
million-dollar  building,  maybe  five  thousand  or  six  thousand 
dollars  on  a  million-dollar  building,  because  we  use 
permanent,  beautiful  paneling.   We  use  beautiful  floors 
that  don't  have  to  be  refinished  and  things  like  that.   Of 
course,  carpeting  is  something  else;  you  have  to  put  that 
down  once  in  a  while.   But  the  basic  building  is  made  out 


of  materials  that  people  respond  to.   It's  also  a  good 
investment  for  the  people  who  build  the  building.   They 
save  so  much  money  by  not  having  to  continuously  redo. 

One  of  the  problems  you  have  in  a  big  corporate  setup 
like  this  is  that  even  though  you  have  a  fine  manager  and 
you  have  people  that  are  responsible  for  the  upkeep  of  the 
buildings,  they  don't  see  the  things  that  need  to  be  done 
as  fast  as  they  should  see  them,  if  you  leave  it  up  to 
them  to  take  care  of  painting  and  a  lot  of  this  kind  of 
thing,  even  the  cleaning.   You  can  whip  them  by  doing  it 
the  ether  way,  by  doing  something  where  it  doesn't  make 
much  difference  if  it's  cleaned  up,  dusted,  and  that  kind 
of  thing  or  not.   Then  you  don't  have  to  worry  about  it. 
That's  one  reason  that  I  think  we've  been  very  successful 
from  an  economic  side.   Whereas  we  spend  more  money  in  the 
beginning,  sometimes  quite  a  bit  more  on  the  materials, 
they're  permanently  there,  and  you  don't  have  to  fool 
around  with  them. 

GOODWIN:   Let  me  ask  a  more  personal  question  that  I  think 
will  be  of  some  curiosity  to  people  who  read  these  tran- 
scripts in  the  future.   Are  you  paid  for  each  building  you 
design  or  are  you  paid  on  a  regular  salary  from  Home  Savings 
as  a  regular  employee? 

SHEETS:  Well,  I'm  very  glad  to  answer  that  question.  Up 
until  the  last  about  two  and  a  half  years,  I've  been  paid 
for  each  individual  building.   I  felt  very  strongly  some 


two  or  three  years  ago  that  I  didn't  want  to  continue  at 
that  pace,  partly  because  of  my  age  and  partly  because  of 
the  fact  that  I  want  more  and  more  time  to  paint.   So  I 
have  been  able  to  work  out  a  very  satisfactory  arrangement 
on  an  annual  stipend  that  is  very  adequate,  from  Home 
Savings.   I'm  able  to  have  more  and  more  work  done  after 
I've  done  the  designing  than  I  used  to  do.   I'm  hoping,  as 
you  know,  in  the  next  matter  of  months  at  the  most  to  be 
as  freed  of  this  whole  responsibility  as  I  can,  because 
I've  been  planning,  desperately,  to  paint  the  rest  of  my 
life.   The  only  way  to  do  this  is  to  really  get  out  of  this 
tremendous  pressured  and  exciting  world  I've  lived  in.   It 
hasn't  been  pressure  except  where  I  created  it;  no  one  else 
has  created  it.   I've  created  my  own  pressure  by  being  that 
much  involved,  that  much  interested.   To  answer  your  ques- 
tion, it  was  always  on  an  individual  building  basis  until 
in  the  last  two  or  three  years,  when,  at  my  request,  we've 
done  it  the  other  way. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  talk  about  another  aspect  of  Home  Savings 
and  your  relationship  with  Howard  Ahmanson.   That  is  the 
design  of  the  new  County  Art  Museum. 

SHEETS:   I  didn't  have  anything  to  do  with  that.   I  didn't 
have  anything  to  do  with  the  County  Art  Museum.   I  did 
have,  I'm  confident,  a  lot  to  do  with  his  desire  to  want 
to  build  it.   We  agreed  right  at  the  beginning.   Though  he 
at  first  talked  very  strongly  about  the  idea  of  my  designing 


the  museum,  I  persuaded  him  very  quickly,  and  he  was  very 
quick  to  see,  that  that  could  become  a  political  kind  of 
thing  that  we  didn't  want  any  part  of.   I  think  he  wanted 
[William]  Pereira  because  they  had  been  very  good  friends 
for  a  long,  long  time.   Pereira  was  awarded  the  contract 
by  the  county,  I  think  quite  definitely  due  to  his  persua- 
sion, although  I'm  sure  they  considered  a  great  number  of 
architects.   I  know  that  my  name  was  thrown  into  the  pot 
not  only  by  Howard  in  the  beginning,  but  by  other  people, 
but  I  didn't  want  to  be  involved  in  anything  that  could 
get  that  political. 

GOODWIN:   So  you  never  prepared  any  plans? 
SHEETS:   No.   I  did  a  lot  of  the  preliminary  designing  on 
the  new  Ahmanson  Center  [3701  Wilshire  Boulevard] ,  but  I 
didn't  do  that.   That  was  done  by  Edward  Durell  Stone. 
There  have  been  quite  a  few  buildings,  I  think  five  or  six, 
that  have  been  designed  by  other  people  than  me  for  Home 
Savings.   When  they  built  office  buildings,  mainly  to  be 
seen  easily  from  a  freeway,  and  they  wanted  heighth, 
they've  gone  to  a  very  good  architect  who's  done  a  lot 
of  the  kind  of  office  buildings  (sort  of  general,  rental 
office  buildings,  with  a  Home  Savings  on  the  ground  floor) 
an  architect  named  Homolka  ,  who  works  with  me  now  at  a  great 
many  of  my  jobs.   After  I  design  them,  he  does  the  finish 
engineering.   He's  an  excellent  architect  and  has  good 
engineers.   He  is  very  cooperative,  and  I  enjoy  working 


with  him.   Those  two  big  projects  that  Howard  was  involved 
with — well,  three  counting  the  [Ahmanson]  Theatre r  of 
course,  which  was  done  by  [Welton  D.]  Beckett,  but  the 
other  two  I  had  never  really  been  thought  of  as  doing, 
and  it's  better  the  way  it  worked  out. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  talk  now  about  some  of  your  other  major 
commissions,  but  for  the  most  part  outside  of  California. 
Is  it  correct  that  you  won  a  competition  to  do  the  murals 
for  the  Detroit  Public  Library? 

SHEETS:   Yes.   The  National  Academy  [of  Design],  which  is, 
of  course,  in  New  York,  has  over  the  century  and  a  half  of 
its  existence,  maybe  longer,  received  a  tremendous  amount 
of  money  from  artists  and  from  architects  and  people  who 
have  been  members  or  sometimes  just  friends  of  the  academy. 
One  of  the  men  who  gave  a  great  deal  of  money — I  don't  know 
the  full  extent  how  much  it  is — was  [Edward  Austin]  Abbey, 
who  was  a  very  fine  mural  painter  in  the  late  nineteenth 
and  slightly  into  the  twentieth  century.   He's  a  good  easel 
painter,  but  he  also  painted  tremendous  murals  all  over  the 
East,  in  Washington  and  various  places.   When  he  died,  he 
left  a  fortune  to  the  academy,  which  he  asked  to  be  devoted 
to  mural  painting  and  to  be  administered  like  this:   that 
the  academy  was  to  hold  competitions,  either  open  or  by 
invitation,  and  each  artist  invited  to  submit  a  design 
for  a  particular  project  would  be  paid  a  reasonable  amount 
for  their  efforts.   Then  the  academy  jury,  made  up  of 


architects  mainly,  with,  I  think,  one  painter — something 
like  that — would  commission  the  winning  artists.   Then 
the  Abbey  fund  would  be  used  to  pay  for  the  entire  cost 
as  a  gift  to  a  community  or  to  an  organization  they  felt 
should  logically  receive  such  a  gift.   I  don't  know  that 
most  public  organizations  know  this,  but  they're  eligible 
for  a  possibility  of  this  kind  by  applying  to  the  academy. 
I  don't  know  really  how  many  they  do  a  year,  but  for  the 
commission  that  I  won  for  the  Detroit  Public  Library,  I 
think  there  were  nine  artists  asked  to  submit  designs. 
Each  one  of  us  was  to  be  paid  a  certain  amount  for  his 
sketch,  except  the  artist  who  won  the  competition,  when 
the  sum  would  apply  toward  the  total  job.   And  that's  what 
happened . 

GOODWIN:   Against  whom  did  you  compete? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  don't  like  to  say  that.   There  were  some 
marvelous  people,  believe  me,  excellent  artists.   All  of 
them  are  very  well  known,  probably  far  better  known  in  the 
East  than  I  am,  and  they're  nationally  very  well  known, 
too.   But  it's  one  of  these  things,  you  know.   You  come 
up  with  an  idea  that  the  committee  and  the  architects 

GOODWIN:   What  was  the  nature  of  the  project? 
SHEETS:   It's  over  the  new  entrance,  the  new  front  to  the 
Detroit  library.   They  gave  no  thematic  limitations.   I 
took  the  general  theme  that  ideas  really  flow  like  a  river 


and  the  library  houses  the  content  of  all  the  best  ideas 
of  time.   I'd  have  to  show  you  the  design.   I  wish  I'd 
really  thought  about  this,  because  I  could  have  brought  it 
to  discuss  it  with  you.   But  I  used  some  very  large,  symbolic 
figures  in  the  center  and  on  two  sides,  and  then  I  tied  these 
together  with  smaller  figures.   It  was  a  lot  of  fun.   It  is 
a  big  mosaic.   If  I  remember  rightly,  it's  sixty  feet  long 
and  twenty-two  feet  high,  and  it's  under  a  huge  portico. 
You  can  see  it  from  quite  a  distance,  so  it  has  to  carry 
well,  and  at  the  same  time  it  reads  well  when  you  get  up 
close.   There's  a  lot  of  interesting  detail  in  it.   It's 
very  strong. 

We  executed  it  here,  and  I  think  I  told  you  that  we  can 
be  so  much  more  creative  doing  it  here  in  our  own  studio 
because  that's  where  the  juices  flow.   You  send  designs  to 
Europe  or  for  someone  else  to  execute,  and  it's  apt  to  be 
deadly  in  a  static  reproduction  of  a  sketch.   This  was  one 
of  the  first  really  big,  big  commissions  for  a  mosaic  that 
we  executed  here.   We  went  back  and  put  it  up  ourselves. 
GOODWIN:   How  long  were  you  involved  with  that  project? 
SHEETS:   About  a  year.   It  was  a  big  one,  and  there  were 
so  many  big,  figurative  problems  in  it.   The  main  figures 
were  about  twelve  feet  high.   It's  interesting:   when  you 
move  up  in  scale  from  six  feet  to  twelve  feet,  the  problems 
multiply  rather  than  diminish.   To  have  the  simplicity  and 
the  powerful  form  and  expressive  symbols,  you  can't  fool 


anybody.   You've  just  got  to  really  work  at  it,  and  I  had 
a  great  deal  of  pleasure  out  of  that  job. 
GOODWIN:   It  came  out  to  your  satisfaction? 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I  wouldn't  say  that  I  was  unhappy  about  that 
job  at  all.   I  think  it  came  out  very  well. 
GOODWIN:   I'd  like  to  see  it. 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  hope  you  can. 

GOODWIN:   Right.   Shortly  afterwards  you  did  another  commis- 
sion, for  the  Notre  Dame  University  Library. 
SHEETS:   Well,  that  was  quite  an  experience.   I  had  done  a 
very  large  mural  in  the  new  diagnostic  center  of  the  Mayo 
Clinic  back  at  Rochester,  Minnesota.   I'd  worked  with  a 
group  of  architects  called  Ellerbe  and  Associates  in 
Minneapolis.   These  architects  were  doing  tremendous  planning 
all  over  the  world.   They  built  some  of  the  greatest  hospitals 
and  some  of  the  greatest  huge  office  buildings  and  industrial 
plants.   Among  other  things,  they  were  master-planning  and 
rebuilding  the  whole  Notre  Dame  campus.   This  campus  was 
really  changing  its  axis.   On  one  end  of  this  axis,  they 
had  a  huge  library  with  a  big  tower,  and  the  architects' 
original  conception  showed  a  mural  going  up  the  face  of 
this  tower.   They  presented  it  to  Notre  Dame,  and  it  was 
basically  approved.   Then  they  were  asked  to  submit  to 
Notre  Dame  University  names  of  artists  who  might  be  able 
to  do  a  decoration  in  a  material  that  would  withstand  the 
real  tests  of  time  and  weather. 


Well,  they  asked  me  first  to  send  material  back, 
which  I  did.   They  submitted  my  name  along  with  a  dozen 
others  to  the  university,  mostly  of  people  who  had  worked 
on  the  Mayo  Clinic  with  them.   I  think  there  were  twenty- 
five  artists  involved  in  the  Mayo  Clinic;  it's  quite  a 
library  of  mural  painting.   Every  floor  has  a  special  work, 
done  by  artists  from  England  and  the  United  States  and 
France  and,  I  believe,  one  from  Mexico.   So  they  submitted 
some  dozen  names  to  the  University  of  Notre  Dame. 

Well,  after  looking  at  all  the  photographs  they  sub- 
mitted, they  selected  me  as  the  potential  designer.   I  went 
back  to  the  architects'  office  in  Minnesota  and  spent  some 
time  discussing  what  material  we  might  use  to  do  this  mural, 
because  it  was  a  huge  affair.   It  was  to  be  134  feet  high 
and  68  feet  wide.   That  in  itself  was  the  biggest  chunk  of 
material  I've  ever  been  involved  with. 

GOODWIN:   In  other  words,  it  covered  the  entire  facade  of 
the  building? 

SHEETS:   It  covered  the  central  part  of  the  tower.   There 
is  a  heavy,  massive  stone  edge  of  the  tower,  probably  fif- 
teen feet  wide  on  either  side  of  the  mural.   But  the  mural 
goes  straight  up  from  over  the  entrance  door,  right  up 
almost  to  the  top  of  the  tower,  and  that's  a  very  large 
space . 

The  problem  was  what  to  use.   We  discussed  mosaic,  and 
we  talked  about  how  the  Mexicans  had  done  it  in  Mexico  City 


at  the  University  of  Mexico.   We  discussed  all  sorts  of 
techniques  of  mosaic. 

One  of  the  engineers  was  very  adamant.   He  said, 
"Granite  is  the  only  thing  that  I  think  we  should  recommend, 
because  of  the  tremendous  change  of  heat  and  cold  in  South 
Bend,  Indiana.   I  don't  know  anything  about  granite,  whether 
you  could  get  the  kind  of  colors  you'd  need  or  whether  you 
could  get  the  kind  of  feeling  you  want  out  of  granite,  but 
it  should  definitely  be  done  in  granite."   He  was  a  very 
strong  character,  and  he  certainly  knew  what  he  was  talking 
about.   His  arguments  were  right  about  why  it  would  stand 
up  for  thousands  of  years,  literally,  if  it  was  to  stay 
there  that  long.   So  he  influenced  all  of  us  to  the  point 
that  we  decided,  well,  let's  find  out  about  it. 

I  was  told  about  the  granite  society — it  has  a  funny 
name  which  I  don't  remember.   I  wrote  to  them  and  said, 
"How  many  colors  of  natural  granite  are  there?"   They  wrote 
back,  "Twenty-seven."   Well,  I  knew  better  than  that.   I 
just  knew  that  that  was  not  enough.   I  knew  also  that  even 
if  we  had  to  deal  with  twenty-seven,  that,  limited  though 
it  might  be,  by  getting  different  textures,  which  will  last 
forever  on  the  granite — one  polished,  one  what  they  call 
sand  finish,  and  another  that  they  called  natural  cleavage — 
that  we  could  get  three  different  colors  and  three  different 
values  out  of  each  of  the  separate  basic  colors.   But  I 
wasn't  satisfied  that  that  was  enough.   In  about  a  year 


and  a  half,  long  after  I'd  started  the  job,  I  found  143 
colors,  which  is  some  difference. 
GOODWIN:   All  around  the  world? 

SHEETS:   All  around  the  world.   I  had  friends  in  Europe  and 
brokers  all  over  who  handled  marbles  and  whatnot  whom  I'd 
been  buying  things  from,  and  everybody  made  a  game  out  of 
it.   They  started  searching,  and  when  the  samples  came  in, 
I  couldn't  believe  it. 

Well,  I  went  down  to  Notre  Dame,  after  meeting  the 
architects  on  that  first  trip,  and  met  Father  [Theodore  M.] 
Hesburgh  and  his  marvelous  assistant,  Father  [Edmund  P.] 
Joyce.   I  discussed  with  them  the  whole  idea  of  this  project. 
They  were  fascinating.   First,  Father  Hesburgh  really  shocked 
me  by  saying,  when  I  asked  them  what  they  had  in  mind  in  the 
way  of  subject  matter,  "Millard,  that's  up  to  you.   We're 
not  going  in  any  way  to  interfere."   Well,  I  said,  "My 
goodness,  this  is  a  huge  university,  and  it's  a  Catholic 
university.   I  should  think  you'd  be  deeply  concerned  with 
the  kind  of  subject  matter."   "No,  we  have  to  depend  upon 
you,  because  we've  selected  you.   That's  your  responsibility." 
Well,  I  said,  "Haven't  you  even  a  little  glimmer  of  a 
suggestion  or  an  idea?"   And  they  said  no.   They  said,  "As 
a  matter  of  fact,  if  you  want  to  do  something  abstract, 
that's  up  to  you.   If  you  want  to  do  something  that's  repre- 
sentational, that's  up  to  you.   If  you  want  to  do  something 
religious,  that's  up  to  you.   But  we  want  your  interpretation." 


Well,  it  was  a  little  bit  like  my  Ahmanson  experience, 
except  this  was  so  definitely  one  thing  that  it  really  gave 
me  pause  to  think.   We  discussed,  quite  at  length,  the  idea 
of  granite,  and  we  had  a  marvelous  day  really,  the  three  of 
us  together,  talking  about  this  whole  thing.   We  had  lunch, 
after  we'd  had  a  couple  of  nice  martinis,  and  after  lunch 
Father  Hesburgh  suddenly  said,  "Well,  Millard,  it's  all 
set.   We're  going  to  go,  is  that  right?"   I  was  rather 
startled,  and  I  looked  over  and  I  said,  "Well,  just  a 
minute.   I'm  honored  that  you're  pleased  that  I'm  going  to 
do  it,  that  you  want  me  to  do  it,  but  we  haven't  discussed 
any  of  the  really  down-to-earth  problems.   For  instance, 
how  much  is  such  a  thing  going  to  cost  in  granite?   It's 
so  wild  to  consider  the  combination  of  the  hardness  and 
the  difficulty  of  using  this  material,  the  weight  of  it  in 
the  building,  I  have  no  idea  right  off  the  top  of  my  head 
to  give  you  an  answer.   I'm  too  old  to  spend  a  year  designing 
something  that  you  can't  afford  to  put  up,  because  I  can't 
waste  a  year,  even  though  I'm  terribly  excited  about  the 
project. " 

"Well,"  he  said,  "give  me  just  a  wild,  way  outside 
kind  of  a  figure,  what  you  think  it  would  cost  to  execute 
this  thing."   I  said,  "Well,  not  counting  my  part  in  it  at 
all,  but  just  the  actual  mechanics  and  the  unbelievable 
engineering  and  everything  else  that  is  involved,  it  could 
run  $350,000.   I  don't  know — I'm  just  guessing."   And  of 


course  we're  talking  about  almost  fifteen  years  ago,  when 
money  was  a  little  different  than  it  is  now.   He  said,  "All 
right,  now  we've  passed  that  hurdle."   I  said,  "What  do  you 
mean,  we've  passed  that  hurdle?"   He  said,  "That's  my  re- - 
sponsibility,  I'll  get  the  money — I  don't  care  what  it  costs. 
Now,  about  your  fee?"   I  said,  "Well,  that's  not  going  to  be 
too  difficult.   I  can  give  you  some  kind  of  a  fee,"  and  I 
threw  out  kind  of  a  loose  figure.   I  wasn't  very  smart — it 
was  a  little  low,  quite  a  little  low,  but  anyway  I  suggested 
it.   He  said,  "Now  we've  passed  that  hurdle.   Let's  go.   You 
go  back  to  California  and  you  do  your  research  and  come  up 
with  your  idea,  or  ideas  if  you  want  to  submit  a  couple  of 
ideas;  then  let  me  know,  and  come  back,  and  we'll  look  at 
them,  and  we'll  present  them  to  the  senate."   They  have  an 
interesting  group  there:   it  would  be  like  the  head  profes- 
sors of  the  university  that  form  the  senate.   He  said, 
"Now,  they're  not  going  to  be  the  ones  that  are  going  to 
be  critics.   We  want  to  get  them  excited  about  it.   If 
they  have  some  suggestions  and  so  forth,  we'll  be  happy 
to  have  that,  but  that's  all  there'll  be  to  that." 

"Well,"  I  said,  "now  there's  one  other  thing  I'd  like 
to  discuss  with  you  before  I  start  home  and  get  into  this 
thing.   I  am  not  a  Roman  Catholic.   I  have  no  prejudice 
whatsoever  toward  any  religion  or  any  faith  or  any  race, 
but  I'm  not  a  Roman  Catholic,  and  on  top  of  that  I've  just 
finished  a  huge  Scottish  Rite  cathedral,  a  Masonic  temple. 


in  Los  Angeles.   I  just  don't  want  to  go  on  under  any  false 
colors.   You  know,  I'm  not  a  Mason,  and  I'm  not  a  Catholic. 
Now,  if  these  things  don't  interfere,  that's  fine."   Father 
Hesburgh  laughed — he  just  laughed  out  loud — and  he  said, 
"Well,  you  know,  the  Masons  and  the  Catholics  used  to  fight 
a  little  but,  what  the  hell.   I  did  a  lot  of  research  on  you, 
I  was  in  California  about  four  months  ago  doing  a  Catholic 
motion  picture,  and  while  I  was  out  there  I  did  a  lot  of 
research  on  you,  and  I  knew  you  were  building  that  thing. 
There's  just  one  promise  that  I  want  you  to  make:   that  is, 
that  some  day,  in  my  street  clothes,  you'll  take  me  through 
it.   [laughter]"  I'm  delighted — and  forget  it.   I  want  to 
tell  you  something:   Even  if  I  have  to  get  an  infidel,  I'm 
going  to  get  who  I  want  to  do  this  job.   And  you're  my 

So  we  became  very,  very  good  friends,  as  I  did  par- 
ticularly with  Father  Joyce.   Oh,  what  a  pair  of  guys.   And 
the  whole  staff  was  marvelous.   I  came  back  and  I  made  three 
different  sketches,  different  ideas,  different  scale.   I 
took  them  back,  and  they  all  just  landed  on  the  one  that 
was  similar  to  the  one  we  finally  did.   It  was  my  choice, 

GOODWIN:   What  were  your  three  ideas? 

SHEETS:   Well,  one  idea  was  really  based  upon  something  I 
read.   They  gave  me  a  book  on  Notre  Dame,  and  one  of  the 
professors  had  written  a  very  unusual  concept  of  the  Sermon 


on  the  Mount.   I  thought  of  a  very  dynamic,  full-length 
Christ,  with  a  very  striking  pose,  standing  on  a  rock  with 
the  multitude  below.   It  could  have  been  an  interesting 
mural--!  really  think  it  could  have  been.   It  would  have 
been  more  representational  than  the  one  we  finally  did. 
But  I  think  it  could  have  been  interesting.   It  might  have 
been  a  lot  more  difficult  to  do  in  granite,  although  I 
think  I  could  have  done  it. 

The  second  one  was  a  processional  idea,  which  was 
simply  a  movement  of  figures  up  against  the  whole  tower. 
I  had  suggested  there  the  figure  of  Christ  with  his  arms 
in  the  preaching  position,  the  disciples'  heads  cutting 
across  his  chest,  and  then  his  body  disappearing  down  into 
the  processional,  as  an  idea.   That  was  the  one  that  they 
finally  chose. 

The  third  one  was  an  interesting  one.   It  wasn't  a 
tree,  but  it  was  sort  of  like  a  tree  shape,  with  limblike 
forms.   I  had  groups  of  scholars  on  these  different  limbs. 
It  was  architecturally  quite  interesting,  but  I  think  it 
was  static  as  compared  to  the  one  we  finally  did. 

Anyway,  we  had  a  great  meeting,  and  they  all  said  that 
they  really  thought  this  one  was  the  one  that  seemed  to 
express  the  whole  thing,  as  far  as  they  were  concerned. 
I  think  they  were  delighted  that  I  used  the  figure  of 
Christ  with  the  disciples.   Then  I  had  a  processional  of 
figures  that  are  not  meant  really  to  represent  individual 


scholars,  but  by  the  costumes  to  more  or  less  suggest 
something  of  the  ancients  and  coming  up  through  the  ages. 
I  don't  know  whether  you've  seen  it,  but  it  has  a  flow  of 
figures . 

GOODWIN:   Just  a  small  magazine  reproduction. 
SHEETS:   That's  the  one  also  that  the  architects  liked. 
I  went  both  to  Notre  Dame  first,  and  then  I  went  on  back 
to  the  architects.   They  were  very  excited  about  that  one. 
So  then  I  came  back  and  developed  a  very  much  more  complete 
and  better-thought-out  design,  twice  the  scale,  I  think. 
The  second  painting  1  made  was  probably  five  feet  high, 
something  like  that.   I  took  it  back,  and  it  was  approved. 

Of  course  I  kept  in  mind  while  I  was  making  this 
sketch  what  I  might,  within  reason,  be  able  to  get  in  the 
way  of  granite.   I'd  already  begun  to  get  a  lot  of  the 
samples.   But  then  the  problem  was  to  really  start  tying 
these  things  down,  and  it  took  about  a  year  to  do  all  the 
preliminary  work.   When  you  get  on  this  scale,  you  just 
can't  believe  the  complications. 

First  of  all,  my  studio  was  only  fifty  feet  wide  and 
twenty-five  feet  high  on  the  long  wall,  and  that  little 
extra  eighteen  feet  in  the  sixty-eight  foot  width  posed  a 
miserable  problem  because  every  time  I  drew  it  I  had  to 
keep  moving  the  paper,  rolling  up  one  end  or  the  other, 
plus  the  fact  that  I  could  only  mount  two  sections,  ten 
feet  high  each,  at  a  time.   In  order  to  get  a  cartoon 


that  was  going  to  be  absolutely  accurate,  because  at  no 
time  would  I  ever  see  the  whole  thing — no  way  to  see  the 
whole  thing — I  had  to  rent  the  Pan  Pacific  Auditoriiom.   I 
glued  together,  I  guess,  the  largest  piece  of  paper  that's 
been  put  together  around  here  in  a  long  time.   On  the  floor 
of  the  Pan  Pacific  Auditorium,  we  put  paper  together  in 
ten-foot-wide  sheets.   We  had  enough  to  make  it  134  feet 
high  and  68  feet  wide.   Then,  with  just  the  same  kind  of 
an  instrument  that  a  surveyor  uses,  we  set  up  the  tripod 
and  set  perfect  four-square  corners.   Then  we  took  ten- 
foot  modules,  vertically  and  horizontally,  and  used  our 
snap  lines  to  make  a  perfect  grid  of  ten-foot  squares  all 
over  the  entire  thing.   Then  we  went  over  that  with  pencil 
so  it  would  never  get  erased.   It  had  to  be  that  accurate. 
You  just  couldn't  play  around  with  quarters  of  inches. 
Then  I  took  by  measurement  all  of  the  basic  lines  in  my 
design,  and  there  were  a  lot  of  very  powerful  diagonal 
lines  as  well  as  cross  lines  and  vertical  lines.   Every- 
thing we  could  do,  we  did  by  accurate  measurement.   We 
laid  all  those  lines  in  on  the  floor  of  this  big  Pan  Pacific 
Auditorium,  and  the  cartoon  then  was  basically  established. 
The  square  lines  and  all  the  main  points  were  very  well 

Then  I  took  the  cartoon  all  apart  and  cut  it  into 
horizontal  strips  ten  feet  high.   These  strips  were  all 
numbered.   There  were  some  fourteen  or  fifteen  strips. 


about  134  feet  with  extra  space  for  notation  and  whatnot. 
We  brought  them  back  to  the  studio,  and  then  I  had  photo- 
graphs made  of  my  sketch.   I  had  slides  made  for  every 
ten-foot  square  in  the  entire  thing  so  that  I  could  project 
each  ten-foot  strip  on  the  grid  exactly  right.   All  I  had 
to  do  was  get  it  dead  center  on  the  ten  feet,  horizontally 
and  vertically,  and  know  that  I  had  no  distortion.   It  made 
a  simple  problem  of  getting  a  very  accurate  drawing  then  on 
a  design  that  I  never  would  see  as  one  piece.   I  keep 
pointing  this  out  because,  as  the  process  goes  forward, 
you  can  see  the  complexity  of  all  this. 

When  that  was  finished,  I  had  all  these  small  slabs  of 
granite  finished  in  the  different  textures  that  I  wanted, 
arranged  on  a  huge  panel  that  had  two  tilted  sides  and 
rolled  around  on  wheels.   By  having  all  these  things  in 
sequence — and  I  had  a  total  of  almost  200  colors,  counting 
the  different  textures — I  could  take  these  colors  and  lay 
them  against  a  still  larger  sketch,  which  was  not  so  much 
in  detail  but  was  in  accurate  color.   We  took  the  original 
sketch  and  we  took  the  granites,  and  we  matched  those 
granites  as  best  we  could  and  pulled  it  together  that  way. 

Then  we  worked  back  the  other  way.   We'd  take  the 
granites,  after  the  sketch  was  completed  and  put  up  where 
we  could  work  with  it  regularly  without  having  to  unroll 
it  or  anything,  and  we'd  just  take  a  piece  of  granite  and 
hold  it  up  to  where  it  looked  right.   Then  we'd  take  that 


granite,  and  we'd  carry  that  up  on  the  scaffold  with  us. 
We  had  one  row  across  at  the  top  and  one  row  underneath 
it.   We  went  up  to  the  top,  and  starting  with  each  color, 
we  matched  it  and  even  gave  it  some  of  the  same  texture 
as  the  granite,  so  it  wouldn't  look  just  like  a  slick 
thing.   We  painted  every  single  area  of  this  huge  design. 
Of  course,  it  had  to  be  stylized  to  the  point  that  you 
couldn't  carry  a  color  over  and  then  spit  on  it  and  get 
it  soft  or  darker  or  lighter.   You  had  to  have  it  abso- 
lutely right,  color  against  color.   There's  no  deviation — 
that's  it. 

We  painted  the  top  strip  and  the  strip  underneath  it, 
and  then  we  looked  at  that  longingly  and  finally  said, 
"Well,  here  we  go."   We  took  the  top  strip  down,  shipped 
it  back  to  Cold  Spring,  Minnesota,  and  moved  the  bottom 
strip  up  to  where  the  top  one  was  and  put  the  next  one 
under  it  and  painted  that  one.   Strip  by  strip,  we  always 
had  the  one  that  was  above  it  to  match  it  to,  but  we  had 
to  do  the  whole  thing  without  seeing  it  again.   No,  that's 
not  true.   We  got  it  all  painted,  and  by  this  time  the 
strips  were  all  back  there,  and  the  granite  men  had  been 
making  their  analysis  of  areas:   so  much  cubage  for  this, 
so  much  cubage  for  that.   They  got  all  their  amounts  of 
granites  as  these  strips  came  back.   They  were  all  numbered 
so  they  knew  the  exact  pieces  of  granite  and  everything 
else.   They  then  started  bringing  granite  from  all  over 
the  world . 


Well,  when  I  got  through  with  the  bottom  panel,  I 
went  back  to  Cold  Spring,  Minnesota,  and  we  pasted  the 
whole  cartoon  again,  as  we  had  done  the  first  time,  on 
the  floor  of  a  big  gymnasium  we  rented.   By  climbing  up 
on  the  grid  above  it,  looking  down — though  I  couldn't  get 
a  really  good  view  way  up  there  as  I  was  only  about  oh, 
thirty-five,  forty  feet  up — I  could  look  down  and  get  a 
fairly  good  sense  of  the  whole  design,  and  I  knew  it  was 
working.   Then  I  had  Sue  Hertel  come  up,  and  we  spent 
three  days  there,  where  I  did  nothing  but  stand  up  on 
the  grid,  and  she  moved  pieces  of  granite  around  on  top 
of  the  cartoon  to  see  if  I  could  locate  them  against  the 
color  of  the  cartoon.   If  I  couldn't  locate  them,  then  it 
was  a  success.   With  down  light,  there  were  no  shadows. 

After  we'd  done  all  of  that,  then  piece  by  piece, 
we  cut  it  up  again,  and  the  granite  craftsmen  started 
the  actual  production,  which  took  two  years.   I  used  to 
commute  up  there  about  every  four  weeks,  the  year  around, 
winter,  summer,  and  we  gradually  got  the  project  going. 
GOODWIN:   How  big  were  the  pieces,  the  individual  tiles? 
SHEETS:   Well,  they  varied  enormously.   They're  not  tile— 
they're  solid  granite.   I'll  put  it  this  way:   we  had  to 
end  up  always  with  a  piece  of  granite  six  inches  thick, 
two  inches  thick  attached  to  four  inches  of  concrete 
behind  the  granite.   The  granite  was  formed  into  large 
units  approximately  6x8  feet,  irregular  in  shape,  in 


order  to  follow  contours  of  figures  in  the  design.   Each 

color  and  value  change  was  cut  out  of  a  separate  piece 

of  granite,  whether  two  inches  thick  or  the  full  six  inches 


The  architects  and  engineers  and  I  spent  several 
months  determining  the  best  method  of  attaching  the  granite 
to  the  building.   It  was  agreed  by  our  collaboration  that 
if  the  granite  was  backed  directly  by  concrete,  that  in 
approximately  sixty  years  the  difference  in  expansion  and 
contraction  between  granite  and  concrete  would  separate 
the  bond.   Due  to  the  extreme  changes  in  the  weather  in 
Indiana,  we  decided  we  would  not  cast  the  granite  on  the 
concrete.   The  engineers  told  us  to  imbed  stainless  steel 
pins  in  the  back  of  each  piece  of  granite.   Holes  were 
drilled  slightly  larger  than  the  pins,  and  the  pins  were 
then  dry-packed  into  the  granite.   Depending  upon  the  size 
of  each  piece  of  granite,  the  number  of  pins  in  each  piece 
varied  from  two  to  seventy-five < 

After  each  granite  segment  had  the  pins  installed, 
the  granite  was  placed  face  down  upon  a  level  surface  and 
the  adjoining  granite  was  placed  against  the  pieces  that 
fitted  like  a  jigsaw  puzzle  to  produce  the  overall  design. 
These  segments  were  then  covered  on  the  back  side  by  a 
plastic  blanket  one-quarter  of  an  inch  thick.   The  pins 
were  forced  through  the  plastic,  so  the  plastic  was  tightly 
placed  against  the  granite.   A  metal  edge  six  inches  thick 


was  then  shaped  around  each  area  that  I  have  outlined  as 
being  approximately  six  feet  by  eight  feet.   Concrete  was 
then  poured  to  the  level  of  the  six-inch  border  and  allowed 
to  cure.   In  the  detail  of  Christ's  head,  that  was  five  feet 
high,  the  individual  pieces  varied  from  twelve  inches  to 
several  square  feet.   In  Christ's  head  there  were  123  pieces 
carefully  cut  to  shape,  and  the  surrounding  shapes  fitted 
perfectly  to  each  shape.   Each  of  the  units  6x8  feet 
irregular  in  shape  were  fitted  together,  numbered,  and 
made  ready  for  shipping  from  Cold  Spring,  Minnesota,  to 
South  Bend,  Indiana. 

There  were  many  engineering  details  I  have  not  des- 
cribed to  avoid  sheer  action  with  pins  and  to  assure  a 
perfect  flat  surface  in  the  casings,  but  suffice  to  say 
the  process  was  correct.   The  only  maintenance  on  the 
mural  will  be  grouting  between  the  large  units  every 
twenty  years  comparable  to  the  maintenance  of  all  granite 
buildings  in  severe  weather.   There  will  be  no  change  in 
color  or  value  in  centuries  if  the  building  survives. 

Well,  finally,  when  they  had  about  thirty  or  forty 
feet  of  the  full  width  of  the  stone  together,  I  was  really 
kind  of  scared.   I  said  to  myself  and  then  to  them,  "How 
do  we  know  this  thing  is  going  to  carry  a  half  a  mile?   I 
know  my  sketch,  but  I'd  love  to  see  a  finished  section  of 
the  stone."   That  kind  of  material  was  so  heavy  that  I 
rarely  saw  two  sections  of  it  together — I  mean  two  8x8 


or  6  X  6  pieces.   They  were  scattered  all  over,  and  there 
was  no  way  to  move  them.   I  could  only  look  at  a  piece  of 
a  head  here  and  a  piece  of  a  nose  there.   I'll  tell  you, 
it  was  a  hell  of  a  problem  to  visualize  completely  the 
total  effect  of  the  mural.   So  finally  I  persuaded  them 
to  rent  some  bleachers,  and  we  put  them  down  below  a  water 
tower.   And  with  a  4  5-degree  angle,  we  put  heavy,  very 
heavy  plywood  on  the  bleachers,  and  then  we  laid  these 
great  .... 


JANUARY  13,  1977 

GOODWIN:   We're  continuing  a  discussion  of  the  preparation 
of  the  library  mural  at  the  University  of  Notre  Dame  which 
was  finished  in  1963.   We're  just  at  the  point  where  Mr. 
Sheets  is  in  Minnesota,  and  he's  trying  to  get  an  idea  of 
what  the  effect  of  the  full  mural  will  be  once  it's  in 
place.   He  hasn't  had  the  opportunity  yet  to  see  it  that 
way.   I  think  that's  about  right. 

SHEETS:   That's  correct,  George.   I  think  there  are  two 
points  to  make  in  picking  up  where  we  left  off:   first, 
the  necessity  of  trying  to  see  how  well  the  pieces  worked 
together,  because  I'd  never  seen  pieces  larger  than  6  feet 
X  6  or  7  feet.   I  had  not  seen  even  a  full  head  put  to- 
gether, except  in  a  few  instances.   I  also  wanted  to  see 
how  it  would  carry,  how  the  style  we  were  using  and  the 
values  we  were  using  would  carry — knowing  that  it  would 
have  to  carry  for  some  half-mile  effectively—and  at  the 
same  time  be  interesting  and  exciting  when  you  came  up 
close  to  it.   So  for  this  reason  we,  as  I  told  you,  rented 
the  bleachers,  put  heavy  plywood  against  the  seats  at  a 
45-degree  angle  and  had  large  sections  of  the  mural  set  up 
against  them.   At  this  point,  I'm  about  to  climb  up  a  water 
tower  some  ninety  feet  high.   It's  in  the  winter,  and  there's 
a  pretty  good  wind  blowing.   From  the  ground  it  looked  like 


a  very  simple  climb  because  the  ladder  was  not  too  vertical. 
It  had  a  slight  tilt  to  it,  and  it  had  railings,  and  it  went 
up  to  a  deck.   I  hadn't  taken  the  trouble  to  walk  around  to 
the  other  side  of  the  tower  to  see  that  the  ladder  changed 
then  to  just  iron  rungs,  straight  up,  for  the  balance  of  the 
ninety  feet,  some  seventy  feet.   Well,  at  the  last  minute. 
Father  Joyce,  who  is  the  assistant  to  the  president  at  Notre 
Dame,  said,  "I'm  going  with  you."   I  said,  "Well,  Father, 
you  can't  go  in  that  beautiful  robe  and  your  tricornered 
hat.   You  couldn't  do  it."   He  said,  "Yes,  I'm  going  to  do 
it."   Finally  I  persuaded  him  to  leave  his  hat,  and  we 
started  up.   I  knew  he  was  with  me  all  the  way  because 
every  time  I  stopped  for  a  little  bit  of  breath  I'd  feel 
his  hand  hit  my  foot.   I  guess  his  being  there  kept  me 
going  up,  because  it  was  a  pretty  darned  difficult  climb. 
It  was  so  cold  and  my  hands  felt  so  numb  that  I  didn't  know 
for  sure  I  could  even  hang  onto  the  darn  rungs.   But  we  got 
to  the  top,  and  then  we  were  shocked,  because  when  we 
reached  the  top  it  was  not  flat;  it  was  pyramid-shaped. 
It  went  up  to  a  center  point.   It  was  metal,  and  there 
wasn't  too  much  to  hang  onto.   There  were  two  or  three 
little  rungs  as  you  went  up,  two  or  three  little  ones, 
and  that  was  all. 

Well,  we  were  shocked  when  we  got  to  the  very  top  of 
the  peak  to  see  that  we  were  still  so  far  back  from  the 
edge  of  the  tower  that  we  couldn't  look  down  on  the  mural. 


so  we  had  to  descend  on  the  other  side,  really  on  our 
bellies,  sliding  down  slowly  toward  the  edge  and  hanging 
our  heads  over  the  edge,  which  I  didn't  enjoy  a  bit.   I've 
never  been  bothered  terribly  by  high  places ,  but  I  certainly 
wasn't  pleased  with  the  experience.   Father  Joyce,  who  cer- 
tainly was  a  gutsy  man,  as  far  as  I'm  concerned,  completely 
messed  up  the  beautiful  costume  that  he  wore.   It  was 
completely  smeared  with  dirt  and  soot  from  that  roof.   Well, 
we  were  overjoyed  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  we  were  dirty 
and  cold,  because  we  could  tell  that  the  mural  was  going 
to  carry.   It  was  of  immeasurable  help  to  see  it  from  that 
distance.   On  reflection,  of  course,  what  we  should  have 
done  was  rent  a  helicopter,  which  would  have  been  a  very 
simple  matter  to  climb  up  to  any  height.   But  we  didn't 
think  of  that,  and  I  don't  know  that  there  was  a  helicopter 
nearby,  but  in  any  case,  we  made  it. 

Then  coming  back  was  worse  than  going  up,  but  as  you 
can  see,  we  made  it,  although  I  think  that  descent  was  one 
of  the  toughest  jobs  that  I  ever  did,  because  looking  down 
and  then  having  to  back  up  over  that  point  again  and  slide 
down  the  other  side  was  more  than  I  would  like  to  do  every 

Well,  that  satisfied  me  at  least  to  the  point  that  I 
felt  that  the  mural  was  going  to  carry.   With  the  value 
range  that  I  had  worked  out,  I  felt  that  the  overall 
design  would  work. 


Over  the  year  or  year  and  a  half  that  it  took  to 
complete  the  fabrication,  I  made  trips  about  every  month 
and  checked  on  details.   Once  the  granite  cutters  under- 
stood the  problem  thoroughly,  they  were  magnificent  in  the 
way  they  worked  things  out.   It  was  a  strange  circumstance 
that  the  entire  town  of  Cold  Spring,  Minnesota,  is  made  up 
of  Roman  Catholic  people.   The  dedication  that  those  people 
had  toward  this  job,  which  they  insisted  on  calling  the 
Eighth  Wonder  of  the  World,  because  of  its  size  and  the 
fact  that  they'd  never  had  contact  with  anything  like  this, 
produced  a  dedication  that  was  tremendous.   It  probably  was 
something  akin  to  the  spirit  that  some  of  the  cities  that 
built  great  cathedrals  might  have  felt,  although  there  it 
would  go  on  for  100  years  or  more.   I  think  the  whole  city 
was  aroused,  and  it's  my  understanding  that  most  of  the 
people  in  the  city  came  down  to  the  dedication  at  Notre 
Dame  when  it  took  place.   But  the  interesting  thing  was 
that  inch  by  inch,  as  this  whole  job  was  finished,  there 
wasn't  a  single  accident  during  the  entire  project;  not 
one  piece  was  broken.   After  the  sections  were  once  put 
together,  it  was  extraordinary  that  they  could  be  stored. 
I  don't  know  off  the  top  of  my  head  what  68  x  134  is  in 
square  footage. 

GOODWIN:   I  think  it  was  something  like  9,000  square  feet. 
SHEETS:   It's  about  9,000  square  feet,  and  just  9,000  square 
feet  strung  out — even  a  lot  of  it  outdoors  in  the  winter 


because  of  the  fact  that  there  wasn't  enough  room  inside 
the  buildings — made  it  look  like  an  enormous  graveyard, 
really,  with  all  these  pieces  of  granite  all  over  the 
place.   It  was  a  very  exciting  experience. 

When  we  loaded  the  sections  to  take  them  to  Notre  Dame, 
it  was  still  wintertime.   Everyone  was  somewhat  concerned 
about  it,  although  there  was  a  cover  over  the  outside  and 
elevators  that  went  up  the  face  of  the  big  tower.   It  was 
still  minus-zero  and  only  occasionally  slightly  above-zero 
weather.   These  trucks  had  to  be  loaded  with  two  major 
pieces,  one  on  either  side  tilted  together  at  the  top, 
much  as  they  load  heavy  glass  or  big  glass  panels.   The 
trucks  proceeded  from  Cold  Spring,  Minnesota,  some  67  0 
miles,  I  think  it  was,  down  to  South  Bend,  Indiana,  through 
those  icy  roads.   They  arrived  at  the  job  exactly  at  a  cer- 
tain time  that  was  preplanned.   The  elevator  took  them 
right  off  of  the  truck  bed,  and  lifted  them  up  to  their 
place,  starting  from  the  bottom.   They  were  welded  imme- 
diately to  the  structural  iron  that  protruded  from  the 
tower,  welded  directly  to  the  building  piece  by  piece. 

So  it  meant  that  just  as  an  army  has  to  plan  its 
movements,  this  whole  operation  had  to  be  planned.   A 
truck  left  at  a  certain  hour  to  arrive  at  a  certain  hour, 
in  order  to  keep  the  work  going  smoothly  forward.   They 
would  then  take  each  section  right  off  the  truck  and  up 
to  its  place.   The  right  amount  of  time  was  planned. 


between  trucks,  of  course,  for  the  welding,  and  this 
schedule  followed  right  up  the  building.   It  was  a  con- 
tinuous process,  twenty-four  hours  a  day,  in  the  neigh- 
borhood of  seven  or  eight  weeks  in  that  final  operation. 
Of  course,  it  was  all  done  under  cover.   You  couldn't  see 
a  thing.   No  one  could  tell  what  the  mural  was  about. 
GOODWIN:   Why  was  it  done  under  cover? 

SHEETS:   Oh,  because  of  the  freezing  weather.   They  had 
the  entire  elevator  covered  with  a  heavy  plastic  and  tar 
paper  covering,  so  they  could  heat  it.   Otherwise,  the 
men  couldn't  even  have  worked  on  the  shaft. 
GOODWIN:   It  wasn't  for  the  purpose  of  surprise? 
SHEETS:   No,  it  was  not.   It  was  just  there  was  no  other 
way  to  do  it.   Then  they  did  plan  a  surprise.   They  planned 
to  unveil  it  before  they  took  the  elevator  out.   This  was 
an  exterior  elevator,  of  course  that  was  removed  piece  by 
piece  as  it  came  down  with  all  of  the  scaffolding.   As 
that  came  down,  they  dropped  a  huge  black  plastic  sheet 
from  the  top  and  brought  it  down  the  full  length.   They 
had  worked  out  a  very  clever  device  for  unveiling  this, 
having  this  great  plastic  sheet  come  down  on  rings  on  some 
heavy  cables  at  the  right  moment.   I  was  told  all  about 
the  mechanics  of  this  thing,  and  I  was  invited  to  come 
to  the  opening . 

It  was  at  the  opening  when  they  had  a  formal  dedica- 
tion, of  course,  plus  a  ceremony  at  which  they  gave  the 


doctorate  degrees  for  Notre  Dame  that  year.   They  awarded 
me  a  doctorate  degree,  an  LLD  honorary  degree.   But  I  was 
excited  about  the  idea  of  this  thing  being  unfurled  and 
at  the  same  time  about  half-scared  as  no  one  had  ever  seen 

This  is  the  way  we  thought  it  was  to  be  when  we  started 
from  California,  my  wife  and  I,  to  go  back  for  the  unveiling. 
We  met  Mr.  [Warren  T.]  Mosman  (who  represented  the  architects 
in  helping  put  this  whole  idea  together)  and  his  wife  in 
Chicago,  and  then  we  flew  from  there  to  South  Bend  together. 
As  we  got  out  of  the  airplane,  from  California  to  Chicago, 
I  saw  the  Chicago  Tribune  lying  around  on  various  sales 
shelves ,  and  on  the  front  page  was  my  huge  mural  in  full 
color.   [laughter]   I  thought,  "How  in  the  world  could 
they  ever  have  taken  such  a  picture?   They  must  have  put 
it  together  from  the  original  sketch."   Until  I  looked  a 
second  time  and  realized  that  it  was  actually  the  building. 
What  had  happened  was  that  they  had  a  small  twister  the  day 
before  the  dedication,  and  the  twister  had  simply  taken  the 
tarpaulin  that  covered  it  off  into  space,  and  they  never 
even  found  pieces  of  it.   So  it  was  unveiled  unceremoniously 
the  day  before  by  the  elements.   It  made  it  perhaps  less 
dramatic,  but  I  felt  better  having  looked  at  that  photo- 
graph before  we  got  to  South  Bend,  to  realize  that  it  did 
read  well,  and  it  was  a  very  exciting  experience. 
GOODWIN:   What  kind  of  feeling  did  you  have,  or  do  you 


still  have,  about  that  work? 

SHEETS:   I  feel  very  good  about  it.   I  feel  good  about  it 
because  I  know  that  it  isn't  going  to  change.   It  certainly 
isn't  going  to  get  any  better,  but  it  can't  get  any  worse 
because,  being  in  granite,  it's  a  timeless  material.   There 
is  just  nothing  that  will  bother  it.   I  told  you  how  compli- 
cated it  was  the  way  the  engineers  and  we  worked  it  out  so 
that  there  never  could  be  any  separation  from  the  concrete 
and  the  building.   The  only  thing  that  will  have  to  be  done, 
probably  every  twenty  years,  is  to  grout  between  those  major 
stones.   But  that  has  to  be  done  in  any  building  in  the 
East,  whether  it's  in  New  York  or  South  Bend  or  Chicago. 
The  elements  require  a  regrouting  about  every  twenty  years 
in  a  granite  building.   The  granite  itself,  however,  will 
never  be  in  any  way  discolored.   It's  so  hard  and  so  dense 
that  whatever  stain  would  come  on  it  would  be  normally 
washed  off  by  the  winter  rain  and  by  the  wind  and  whatnot. 

I  feel  very  good  about  it  because  I  think  it  does 
actually  work  as  a  mural  in  relation  to  the  architecture. 
One  of  the  most  interesting  ways  to  approach  it  is  from 
the  ground  on  the  main  axis.   There's  a  long  reflection 
pool,  several  hundred  feet  long,  that  extends  almost  to 
the  entrance  door  itself,  probably  100  feet  short.   From 
a  long  distance  away,  you  get  a  very  interesting  play  of 
the  reflection  of  the  mural  in  the  pool .   The  pool  seems 
to  give  it  an  extra  dimension. 


But  the  color  is  what  I  think  is  most  exciting.   I 
think  it  would  be  impossible  to  make  bad  color  relation- 
ships with  the  natural  granites.   My  feeling  is  that  the 
color  is  very  close  to  the  frescoes  of  Piero  della 
Francesca  in  the  actual  color  harmony.   You  feel  it  in 
any  earthen  problem  of  course,  but  Piero  della  Francesca 
certainly  did  get  some  beautiful  nuances  of  color  that 
many  other  fresco  painters  did  not  get  to  the  same  degree. 
GOODWIN:   Is  that  something  you  sought  to  achieve? 
SHEETS:   Well,  to  a  degree  I  certainly  wasn't  conscious, 
I  think,  of  any  particular  artist,  but  I  wanted  as  rich, 
warm,  cool  feeling  as  I  could  get,  which  I  think  he  had 
to  such  a  brilliant  degree.   He  used  intense  color  against 
muted  colors,  greyed  colors,  and  greys  and  whites,  which 
made  the  few  colors  that  he  used  very  intense  and  more 
striking  than  if  he'd  had  a  great  deal  of  color  throughout. 
Well,  in  this  mural  the  big  problem  was  not  getting  the 
color  harmony;  it  was  getting  values  that  would  be  abso- 
lutely right  and  carry.   Sometimes  the  value  that  you 
wanted  to  use  was  so  close  that  you  wavered  a  long  time 
for  fear  that  it  might  not  really  read.   I  found  that  the 
absoluteness  of  each  color  made  it  a  very  demanding 
decision.   At  the  same  time,  it  made  it  more  telling  than 
if  you  were  working  in  paint  or  some  medium  where  you 
could  move  things  around  a  little  bit.   It  had  a  kind  of 
striking  simplicity,  much  as  you  get  in  graphic  work  today. 


I  think  one  of  the  reasons  graphic  exhibitions  are 
more  interesting  than  many  painting  exhibitions  is  that 
graphics — just  the  very  discipline  of  the  positive  use  of 
color  in  a  specific  way,  one  against  the  other — is  more 
striking  than  when  a  painter  can  fool  around,  scumble 
around  a  little  bit  more.   Obviously  one  can't  do  always 
the  same  thing  in  one  medium  or  another.   But  I  think  this 
material  had  the  same  effect.   In  a  mosaic,  you  can  get 
almost  any  juxtaposition  of  color  by  vibrating  the  dif- 
ferent colors  together.   In  this  instance,  you  make  a 
final  selection,  and  it  is  so  final,  there's  no  way  you 
can  change  it. 

I  really  feel  very  pleased  with  it.   I  think  that  the 
people  who  go  there  feel  something  very  unusual.   It's  not 
just  the  size.   I  think  the  size,  of  course,  is  bound  to 
be  impressive,  if  it  isn't  a  weak  thing. 
GOODWIN:   Do  you  feel  it  has  a  spiritual  impact? 
SHEETS:   I  do.   I  think  it  has  a  definite  lift.   As  you 
know,  I'm  sure,  there's  a  kind  of  irony  about  it.   The 
football  stadium  is  very  important  at  South  Bend,  and  this 
mural  is  on  a  direct  axis  with  it.   If  you  look  from  one 
end  of  the  football  field  down  across  the  scoreboard,  what 
you  see  above  the  scoreboard  is  the  very  upper  part  of  the 
Christ  with  arms  extended.   So  the  Notre  Dame  students 
immediately  dubbed  it  "Touchdown  Christ."   They  do  that 
in  a  kind  of  a  loving  way,  and  they  felt  they  really  had 


something,  because  they  didn't  lose  a  game  for  the  first 
three  and  a  half  years  in  the  coliseum,  [laughter]  but 
they  finally  found  that  they  were  not  invincible.   It  was 
proven  they  were  not. 

But  it's  a  mural  that  I'm  very  proud  of,  not  just 
because  of  the  size,  partly  because  it  was  a  very  difficult 
problem  in  a  new  material  that  nobody  had  ever  done  anything 
with  before,  partly  the  fact  that  we  could  solve  it  and  make 
it  work  and  at  the  same  time  make  it  highly  decorative,  and 
also  because  I  think  it  does  give  you  a  sense  of  the  meaning 
of  the  teacher,  the  scholar,  which  of  course  symbolizes  the 

GOODWIN:   What  did  it  eventually  cost? 

SHEETS:   Well,  that's  interesting.   I  think  I  told  you 
earlier  when  I  mentioned  what  I  thought  it  might  cost 
Father  Hesburgh  said,  "Well,  now  we've  passed  that  point." 
GOODWIN:   Right. 

SHEETS:   Well,  an  interesting  thing  happened,  and  I  was  so 
excited  when  it  happened.   They  reproduced  a  photograph  of 
my  sketch  in  the  alumni  magazine,  and  they  asked  the  alumni 
to  contribute  toward  this  mural.   In  the  first  six  weeks, 
they  had  somewhere  in  the  neighborhood  of  sixty  or  seventy 
thousand  dollars  that  had  come  in.   While  I  was  in  conver- 
sation with  Father  Hesburgh  one  day  on  the  telephone,  he 
said  that  things  were  going  beautifully,  that  a  certain 
great  friend  of  the  college,  a  graduate  from  there,  a 


lawyer  in  Chicago,  had  given  the  first  check,  which  was 
for  $40,000.   The  other  checks  had  come  in  ranging  any- 
where from  $10  to  $200  or  $300  or  $400  and  two  or  three 
for  $1,000.   They  were  coming  in  every  day.   He  said, 
"We  just  have  no  question  about  it."   Well,  about  two 
weeks  after  that,  this  same  gentleman  from  Chicago  called 
and  said,  "Father  Hesburgh,  how  much  have  we  got  now?   How 
are  we  doing?"   He  said,  "Well,  we're  well  over  the  $100,000 
mark."   He  said,  "Would  it  be  a  bad  thing.  Father  Hesburgh, 
if  you  either  returned  the  money  or  could  get  permission 
to  use  it  for  something  else  if  I  gave  the  whole  thing?" 
Father  Hesburgh  said  he  was  certain  he  could  work  it  out, 
and  this  one  man  gave  the  entire  mural. 
GOODWIN:   Do  you  remember  who  that  was? 

SHEETS:   It  was  Mark  Egan,  from  Chicago.   I've  corresponded 
with  him,  and  he  came  to  the  dedication.   He  was  so  excited 
about  the  whole  thing  that  I  thought  he  was  going  to  faint. 
He  was  probably  in  his  middle  or  early  fifties  and  a 
charming  man.   There's  a  very  nice  bronze  tablet  there 
that  tells  about  his  gift.   But  the  final  mural,  you  asked 
what  it  finally  cost.   Including  my  fee,  we  actually  did 
this  job  for  just  slightly  over  a  quarter  of  a  million 
dollars . 

GOODWIN:   That  was  much  less  than  your  original  guess. 
SHEETS:   It  was  better  than  $150,000  less  than  I  thought. 
I  had  to  make  a  wild  guess  because  there  was  no  way  of 


knowing.   Of  course,  the  reason  for  that  is  surely  the 
fact  that  being  executed  up  at  Cold  Spring,  and  due  to 
the  fact  that  these  people  were  all  members  of  the  Roman 
Catholic  church,  and  the  fact  that  the  people  that  owned 
the  quarries  were  also  Catholic,  I  think  that  they  must 
have  given  a  great  deal  of  themselves  in  addition  and 
beyond  whatever  they  were  paid.   I  know  that  Saturdays, 
Sundays,  and  holidays  meant  nothing  to  those  people. 
They  worked  right  straight  through.   There  was  so  much 
experimental  work  that  had  to  be  done  on  this.   We  had 
to  find  ways  to  do  it  right.   To  carve  the  lines  where 
we  had  used,  of  necessity,  certain  lines  in  the  design, 
and  to  know  exactly  what  would  be  absolutely  permanent 
with  which  to  fill  those  lines,  for,  perhaps,  a  soft 
grey  line  was  something  that  we  had  to  do  a  great  deal 
of  experimenting  with.   I  just  marvel  at  the  way  they 
cut,  the  precision  with  which  they  cut  the  details.   I 
think  in  the  Christ's  face  there  were  something  like  200 
pieces  or  perhaps  more.   I've  forgotten.   I  get  mixed  up 
on  it.   I  think  it's  about  200  and  some  separate  pieces 
in  the  head,  although  it's  not  a  complex  head.   It's  very 
simple,  and  it  reads  extremely  well.   I  don't  know  whether 
you've  seen  a  good  reproduction  of  it,  but  it  reads  very 
well.   To  get  expression  into  that  and  to  get  it  so  that 
it  doesn't  look  like  you're  just  trying  to  paint,  but  to 
do  it  with  the  material,  as  you  see  in  some  of  the  great 


early  mosaics  and  that  kind  of  thing,  I  think  they  did  an 
exquisite  job.   They  really  knew  that  when  I  drew  a  line 
with  a  pencil  that  I  didn't  want  it  to  waver  around,  be- 
cause in  this  thing  you  couldn't  waver.   The  small  hands 
were  three  feet  long,  and  you've  got  to  get  your  forms  to 
the  point  to  where  you  can  not  only  handle  them  in  the 
material  but  where  they  will  have  some  sensitivity  and 
some  feeling — feet,  hands,  heads,  and  then  the  gesture 
of  bodies,  and  the  whole  thing.   I  think  they  did  an 
extraordinary  job. 

GOODWIN:   Do  you  remember  how  many  figures  there  are? 
SHEETS:   Oh,  goodness,  just  off  the  top  of  my  head,  I 
would  have  to  say  forty  or  forty-five  or  fifty  figures 
in  various  kinds  of  costumes,  just  to  symbolize  something 
in  the  way  of  passing  of  time  without  trying  to  get  literal 
or  detailed  about  it.   There's  a  sense  of  the  classical  and 
then  coming  on  through.   It's  something  that  doesn't  seem 
to  mystify  anyone.   At  the  same  time  I  don't  think  anyone 
has  tried  to  tie  it  down  into  some  very  narrow  meaning. 

One  of  the  most  interesting  things  that  happened  was 
that  I  found,  as  I  told  you,  143  colors  instead  of  only  27. 
There  was  one  color  that  I  really  felt  hopeless  about.   I 
didn't  expect  granite  to  look  like  gold,  but  I  wanted 
something  in  the  gamut  of  all  the  other  colors  that  would 
have  kind  of  gold  appearance.   Everywhere  I  went,  I  was 
told  by  everyone  this  is  impossible  to  find.   I'd  been  in 


Europe  on  another  matter,  and  I'd  pushed  this  gold  thing 
as  far  as  I  knew  how  to  push  it  with  friends  of  mine, 
brokers  in  marbles  and  granites  and  so  on.   I  hadn't  been 
home  more  than  about  six  weeks  when  I  received  a  little 
package  in  the  mail.   It  was  a  beautiful  piece  of  gold 
granite — I  couldn't  believe  it — and  a  letter  with  it 
stating  this  had  come  from  Brazil.   The  man  knew  nothing 
about  the  present  whereabouts  of  the  quarry,  because  he 
hadn't  heard  of  this  quarry.   Well,  I  sent  cables  to  South 
America  and  found  out  that  this  quarry  was  there,  all 
right,  but  it  had  not  been  worked  for  over  twenty-five 
years.   I  was  told  there  was  no  way  we  could  get  any 
material  out  of  it.   Not  being  satisfied,  I  sent  more 
cables  and  asked  a  broker  in  South  America  to  see  if,  by 
any  chance,  they  could  locate  a  block  of  this  material 
somewhere  that  hadn't  been  chopped  up — maybe  not  a  per- 
fect block,  but  to  see  if  they  could  fine  one.   In  three 
months  I  had  a  cable  that  they  had  found  a  block,  a  very 
beautiful  big  block.   We  had  it  shipped  to  Cold  Spring, 
Minnesota,  and  it's  hard  to  believe  this,  but  by  cutting 
it  the  inch-and-a-half  thickness,  I  think  it  was,  which 
was  the  finest  we  used,  we  came  out  with  about  four  square 
feet  left,  more  than  we  actually  needed,  in  the  various 
places  that  I've  used  this  gold.   I  mean,  it's  an  uncanny 
kind  of  story. 
GOODWIN:   Was  it  in  any  way  a  religious  experience  for 


you,  having  to  do  this  mural? 

SHEETS:   I  think  so.   I've  always  had  a  deep  sense  of  some- 
thing much  bigger  than  life  itself,  something  that  hangs 
this  whole  thing  together.   I  felt  that  in  the  spirit  of 
trying  to  express  a  library,  and  at  the  same  time  some  of 
the  feeling  that  these  people  have,  particularly  in  their 
Catholic  religion,  that  it  was  a  matter  of  real  dedication. 
I  think  everybody  involved  couldn't  help  feeling  that  way. 
GOODWIN:   Has  Notre  Dame  since  had  any  large-scale  art 
work  added  to  the  campus? 

SHEETS:   Not  that  I  know  of.   They  are  building  a  beautiful 
museum  there.   This  was,  I  think,  somewhat  stimulated  by 
this  big  mural,  and  also  by  the  fact  that  [Ivan]  Mestrovic , 
the  great  Yugoslavian  sculptor,  was  at  Notre  Dame  for  the 
last  seven  or  eight  years  of  his  life.   They  built  him  the 
most  beautiful  studio,  and  he  was  really  artist-in-residence , 
but  he  taught  a  few  students  sculpture.   He  was  a  very 
powerful  influence  on  the  college.   He  was  terribly 
excited  about  this  whole  thing,  and  he  saw  the  early 
sketches  and  was  most  enthusiastic.   He  died  before  the 
mural  was  finished,  but  he  was  a  great  man.   The  people 
who  were  in  the  art  department  and  who  were  running  the 
museum  were  first-rate  people  who  had  really  strong 
feelings  about  building  a  fine  gallery  there.   They  are 
collecting  some  very  fine  things  in  many  fields — not  only 
painting  and  sculpture,  but  in  primitive  art  and  in 


graphics.   It's  a  very  lively  place  and  I  think  it's  a 
very  fine  school.   I  like  the  spirit.   We  know  about 
their  football  and  basketball  teams,  but  there  seems  to 
be  a  real  air  of  dedication  there. 
GOODWIN:   Have  you  been  back  a  few  times  since? 
SHEETS:   I've  been  back  a  couple  of  times,  and  I  enjoy 
it  very  much.   I  hear  constantly  from  both  Father  Hesburgh 
and  Father  Joyce  and  a  few  of  the  other  people  that  I've 
known  there . 

GOODWIN:   Have  you  worked  in  granite  again? 

SHEETS:   Not  to  the  same  degree.   I've  used  a  lot  of  granite 
as  background,  choosing  a  very  strong,  interesting  value,  a 
dark  black  or  a  brilliant,  deep  red  or  sometimes  even  deep 
green  into  which  I  inlay  mosaics.   Though  it's  hard  to  cut 
out  and  fit  the  mosaics  in,  I  like  it  very  much  as  a  real 
part  of  a  decoration.   As  I  told  you  the  other  day,  rather 
than  the  rectangle,  I  think  it's  sometimes  much  more 
beautiful  to  do  this.   I  love  granite  in  that  sense.   I've 
used  granite  in  a  lot  of  buildings.   But  I  haven't  done 
another  mural . 

GOODWIN:   Let's  talk  about  another  project  that  was  com- 
pleted around  this  time,  1965,  the  mosaic  mural  for  the 
National  Shrine  in  Washington,  D.C. 

SHEETS:   Well,  that  was  a  tremendously  interesting  project. 
I  was  asked  by  the  architect  to  come  to  Washington  to  dis- 
cuss the  possibility  of  doing  this  dome  over  the  main  altar. 


It's  a  lOO-foot-diameter  dome,  and  the  spring  line  is 
at  100  feet  in  the  air.   It's  a  very  powerful,  big 
church.   I  think  it's  the  sixth  largest  church  in  the 
world.   I  had  no  idea  until  I  went  back  there  what  they 
were  doing.   It's  called  the  National  Shrine,  the  Catholic 
shrine,  and  just  the  nave  itself  is  exactly  the  size  of 
a  football  field,  100  by  300  feet.   On  the  two  sides, 
there  are  aisles  that  are  probably  30  feet  wide  that 
extend  on  either  side  of  the  main  columns  that  support 
the  building.   Then  outside  of  those  side  aisles  are 
enormous  chapels,  representing  the  different  countries 
of  the  world.   It's  really  an  international  shrine, 
because  many  of  the  European  countries  and  many  of  the 
others,  like  Mexico  and  South  America,  have  special 
shrines  that  their  country  has  given.   So  there  must  be 
thirty  such  shrines  in  addition  to  the  main  church.   The 
church  was  built  underground,  beneath  the  floor,  and  they 
called  it  "The  Flat  Top"  for  thirty  or  forty  years  in 
Washington.   And  they  used  the  basements,  what  are  now 
the  basements  of  the  church,  for  their  various  ceremonies. 
It  was  actually  a  church.   Then  when  they  started  the 
cathedral,  of  course  they  have  great  educational  facilities 
and  that  kind  of  thing  underground.   It's  an  enormous 

Well,  this  dome  sits  well  back  from  the  nave.   In 
fact,  like  a  few  other  cathedrals  I've  visited,  it's 


probably  at  least  100  feet  from  the  end  of  the  nave  or 
the  altar  rail  back  to  the  main  altar  where  the  big 
baldachino  goes  up  some  60  feet  with  the  dome  above  it. 
They  asked  me  to  do  the  apocalypse  concept  for  this  dome, 
and  I  made  a  design  which  they  liked.   It  has  the  theme 
of  the  apocalypse:   the  Lamb  of  God  in  the  center,  and 
then  the  great  saints,  which  I  formed  into  a  huge  cross. 
Between  that  are  the  symbols  which  are  involved.   Then 
in  the  pendentives  are  the  various  angels  and  whatnot. 

It's  a  very  simple  design  basically,  although  I 
found  when  we  started  to  make  the  drawings  here,  we 
were  again  up  on  a  big  scale,  thirty-foot  figures,  with 
the  figures  obviously  being  drawn  for  a  dome  shape,  a 
dome  volume.   It's  a  totally  different  problem  than 
working  on  a  flat  surface.   Never  having  done  a  big 
dome  before,  I  read  everything  I  could  read  about  all 
the  geometry  that  was  involved  and  did  all  the  mathe- 
matics that  I  could  get  help  on  to  work  it  all  out  to 
be  sure  that  I  was  right. 

Obviously  a  dome  has  a  series  of  wedgelike  shapes 
that  also  are  bulging  in  the  middle  of  each  wedge.   When 
you  peel  an  orange,  and  pull  the  sections  open,  they're 
not  just  straight  lines.   There  has  to  be  a  bow  in  them 
so  they  will  fit  the  form.   I  made  all  the  attempts  that 
I  could  and  finally  worked  out  one  of  these  foxrms, 
realizing  that  sometimes  a  head,  half  of  a  head,  or  part 


of  a  head  would  be  on  one  edge  of  a  section,  and  then  on 
the  next  section,  perhaps  three  feet  apart,  would  be  the 
rest  of  the  head.   It  was  a  real  interesting  problem  to 
solve . 

I  was  steaming  up  about  it  one  night  at  a  dinner 
party,  the  complexity  of  it,  sort  of  talking  to  myself, 
and  there  was  a  young  mathematician  there  teaching  at 
Pomona  College.   He  said,  "Millard,  why  don't  you  come 
down  and  let  me  work  it  out  on  the  computer  for  you?" 
So  I  went  down  to  see  if  I  was  right,  to  have  it  verified. 
It  turned  out  that  we  were  right  to  an  exact  quarter  of 
an  inch  on  this  first  big  segment.   From  then  on  we  used 
the  computer.   It  was  so  easy.   He  said,  "I  can  tell  you 
where  you  are  within  a  quarter  of  an  inch  anyplace  on 
the  dome."   He  ran  that  computer  for  about  three  hours, 
and  we  had  all  of  the  figures  we  needed  to  work  from.   It 
really  did  make  an  interesting  departure  from  the  old  way 
of  doing  it.   The  reason  we  had  to  be  so  accurate  was 
that  we  had  to  send  these  cartoons — these  final,  finished 
cartoons — to  Germany,  where  the  dome  was  executed.   The 
church  wanted  to  let  that  contract  separately,  and  there 
was  no  way  that  we  could  compete  in  this  country  finan- 
cially, with  the  cost  of  our  labor  at  that  time,  to  do 
it  here.   I  wanted  very  much  to  do  it  here.   But  I  must 
say,  they  did  a  fantastic  job.   I  love  every  bit  of  the 
execution  and  the  way  it  was  done  in  Germany.   It  was 


quite  superior  to  what  I  had  been  having  done  in  Italy. 
I  thought  that  in  their  technique  they  really  did  grasp 
everything  we  were  trying  to  get. 

The  little  sketch  that  we're  looking  at  here  in  this 
catalog*  is  a  flat  rendition  of  the  original  sketch.   But 
in  the  big  dome  there's  tremendous  mystery  and  the  feeling 
of  looking  up  into  a  pretty  spooky  other  world  up  there. 
I  think  that  Lamb  of  God  is  one  of  the  best  things  we've 
done,  in  terms  of  its  powerful  setting,  which  you  really 
can't  get  from  this  sketch  at  all. 

GOODWIN:   Was  there  any  decoration  there  previously? 
SHEETS:   No,  the  church  started  out  with  the  idea  that 
inch  by  inch  and  space  by  space ,  they  would  move  from 
plain  surfaces  to  finished  decoration.   Now  there  has 
been  another  dome  that  has  been  executed  by  a  French 
artist;  it's  a  beautiful  dome.   They've  been  talking 
to  me  for  some  time  about  doing  the  main  dome,  which  is 
150  feet  in  diameter.   That's  down  at  the  entrance  of 
the  church.   But  that's  a  matter  of  approximately  three- 
quarters  of  a  million  dollars  just  for  execution.   So 
they're  looking  for  a  donor  for  that. 

On  the  other  hand,  I've  done  since  then  a  side 
chapel  to  Our  Lady,  as  it's  called.   There  are  three 

*Millard  Sheets.   Lang  Art  Gallery,  Scripps  College, 
March  27-April  29,  1976. 


separate  rooms,  three  domes,  and  a  side  wall  panel  that 
I  found  quite  an  exciting  job.   It's  a  more  intimate  kind 
of  thing.   The  main  dome  in  this  area  is  probably  twenty- 
five  feet  high.   The  decoration  is  such  an  integral  part 
of  the  altar  and  the  whole  thing  the  way  it's  designed 
that  I  enjoyed  doing  this  very  much.   A  group  of  figures 
move  away  from  the  crucifix  itself,  clear  around  the  dome, 
representing  virtually  every  race.   It  has  a  very  special 
mood  in  it.   It's  something  that  I'm  very  proud  of.   It's 
more  intimate.   It's  a  more  tender  thing,  yet  it's  a 
pretty  bold  thing,  if  you  could  see  the  original.   That 
sketch  does  not  in  any  way  suggest  the  power  in  it.   Then 
there  was  a  lot  of  just  plain,  rich  decoration  in  one 
other  dome.   It  didn't  have  any  figurative  design.   It 
was  just  real  rich  decoration.   It  was  a  lot  of  fun. 
GOODWIN:   What  do  you  like  most  about  working  in  mosaics? 
SHEETS:   I  think  there's  something  very  exciting  about  a 
permanent  material.   It  isn't  because  it's  permanent;  it's 
because  it's  ungiving.   You  have  to  work  with  it.   You've 
got  to  create  with  finality.   As  I  said,  with  paint  you 
can  move  and  push  things  around,  and  you  can  raise  it  or 
lower  it  in  value,  and  you  can  brighten  it  or  grey  it  in 
color.   In  mosaic,  you  make  a  decision,  just  as  you  do 
in  the  granite.   You  pick  out  a  piece  and  you  put  it  next 
to  another  piece.   It  either  speaks  to  it  and  it's  exciting 
and  there's  a  richness,  or  there's  dullness,   i  think  that 


mosaic  is  a  wonderful  medium  in  this  respect.   Also,  I 
don't  necessarily  say  "primitive"  things,  but  I  think  I 
like  things  that  are  stronger  in  design  and  less  fussy. 
I  think  that  the  minute  that  you  work  in  mosaic  or  you 
work  in  stained  glass  or  you  work  in  granite,  you're 
committing  yourself  to  something  that  has  to  stand  on 
its  own  without  any  prettiness  or  little  pretty  sweetening, 
GOODWIN:   What  other  artists  in  the  United  States  are 
working  in  mosaic  on  such  a  large  scale?   I'm  not  familiar 

with  any. 

SHEETS:   Well,  there  are  many  artists  who  work  in  mosaic. 
There  are  quite  a  few  artists  who  do  small  panels,  par- 
ticularly in  churches,  and  occasionally  in  a  commercial 
building  you'll  see  an  example.   But  I  don't  know  of  any 
other  artist  that  has  worked  in  the  continuous  way  that 
we  have  in  our  group  because  of  the  opportunities  that  I 
explained,  through  Home,  and  those  opportunities  lead  me 
to  all  these  other  opportunities.   I  know  that  it's  the 
reason  that  so  many,  many  very  big  jobs  have  come  to  me. 
It  is  because  people  from  other  parts  of  the  country  have 
seen  what  we've  done  with  Home.   They've  been  interested 
enough  to  look  me  up  and  say,  "Come  do  it."   We've  really 
worked  on  a  national  scale  in  this  respect  and  had  oppor- 
tunities that  have  just  been  continuous. 

There  are  some  marvelous  people  who  have  done 
beautiful  things.   Jean  and  Arthur  Ames  did  mosaics 


before  I  ever  made  a  mosaic.   I  brought  them  to  Claremont 
many  years  ago  where  Jean  taught  at  Scripps ,  and  they  made 
beautiful  mosaics.   They  worked  together  as  a  team  until 
Arthur  died,  but  Jean  herself  has  done  some  marvelous 
things  on  her  own,  though  not  in  a  continuous  process. 
They'd  do  maybe  one  commission  every  five  years  or  some- 
thing like  that.   There  are  people  I  know  in  various  parts 
of  the  country. 

There's  one  company  in  St.  Louis  that  I  should  have 
thought  of  first,  a  company  called  the  Ravenna  Mosaic 
Company.   It's  not  in  Ravenna — it's  in  St.  Louis.   It's 
a  German  family,  the  Heuduck  family.   They  are  the  first 
people  that  I  worked  with  in  a  mosaic.   The  first  ones  I 
ever  made,  I  found  out  about  them  and  sent  my  cartoon  to 
St.  Louis.   They  executed  it  and  came  out  here  and  set  it. 
I  think  they  did  at  least  five  or  six  jobs  for  me.   These 
antedated  Home  Savings.   These  go  way  back.   I  think  they 
do  by  far  the  best  commercial  work,  in  the  sense  that  they 
do  not  design  themselves  but  they  execute.   I'm  sure  they 
could  design  certain  things,  but  they  have  never  tried  to 
rival  or  to  compete  with  the  artists,  to  my  knowledge. 
They've  done  a  tremendous  amount  of  work.   In  fact,  they 
were  the  people  who  the  church  contracted  with  to  execute 
the  dome.   Then  they  went  to  Germany,  and  they  hired  the 
German  company  and  supervised  the  work.   That's  why  I 
know  it  came  out  so  well,  because  they  knew  me  and  knew 


what  I  wanted,  and  I  spent  a  great  deal  of  time  with  them 
before  they  went  to  Germany.   I'm  sure  if  we  do  this  other 
very  big  dome  that  they  would  work  the  same  way.   They're 
remarkable  people.   So  there  are  mosaics  being  done,  but 
not  too  many  artists  actually  work  with  it  themselves. 
GOODWIN:   You  explained  once  how  a  business  friend  of 
yours  asked  how  he  might  negotiate  his  fee  with  a  certain 
company.   What  has  been  your  experience  in  working  with  a 
project  as  large  as,  say,  the  Notre  Dame  library?   What 
are  the  considerations  to  be  examined? 

SHEETS :   Well ,  I  think  we  talked  about  someone  who  was 
really  getting  into  the  business.   Isn't  that  right? 
GOODWIN:   Yeah. 

SHEETS:   If  I  remember  the  incident,  i  think  I  criticized 
the  thought  that  there  was  just  an  arbitrary  figure  he 
could  pull  out  of  a  hat.   Wasn't  that  what  we  were  dis- 
GOODWIN:   Yeah. 

SHEETS:   I  think  I  said  something  about  that  he  should 
go  back  and  really  analyze  his  own  time  and  his  own 
background.   Well,  now  in  a  case  like,  well,  like  today, 
for  example,  where  I  happened  to  discuss  a  very  interesting 
job.   I  know  now,  because  I'm  working  in  it  all  the  time, 
and  because  I  have  my  own  staff,  what  it's  going  to  cost 
pretty  nearly  to  a  dollar — obviously  not  to  a  dollar,  but 
let's  say  if  we're  talking  about  $20,000,  I  know  accurately 


to  within  $400  or  $500  what  it  will  cost  me  to  have  this 
mosaic  cut.   I  know  how  much  time  I'm  going  to  give  to  it. 
I  know  how  much  time  my  chief  assistant  will  give  to  work 
on  the  project.   I  know,  of  course,  what  the  material 
costs.   I  know  my  studio  overhead.   So  it's  not  a  very 
difficult  thing  for  me  to  arrive  pretty  quickly  at  a 
cost  point.   Now,  from  that  point  on  you're  involved 
basically  with  the  kind  of  clients  you  have  and  what 
they  can  afford.   Also  experienced  clients,  people  like 
those  in  many  of  the  churches,  know  that  there's  not  a 
standard  fee,  but  they  know  that  there  is  a  certain  area 
that  the  price  will  be  within. 

Now,  I'm  the  first  to  say  that  we  have  ranged  a  great 
deal  in  price,  feeling  that  at  times  we  wanted  very  much 
to  help  some  organization  or  institution  or  even  some- 
times an  individual  owner  have  something  because  they 
really  felt  deeply  that  they  wanted  it.   We've  done 
things  for  either  little  profit  or  no  profit  and  even 
on  occasions  at  a  loss,  but  you  can't  do  that  continuously. 
We  know  pretty  much  what  it's  going  to  cost. 


JANUARY  13,  1977 

GOODWIN:   Without  necessarily  identifying  a  particular 
project,  can  you  give  me  some  idea  of  what  kind  of  fees 
you  charge  for  your  large-scale  commissions? 
SHEETS:   Are  you  speaking  now  of  art  primarily,  or 
architecture,  or  what?   Or  both? 
GOODWIN:   Both  or  either. 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  can  give  you  some  round  figures.   Twenty 
years  ago  we  used  to  feel  that  the  average  mosaic,  to  be 
almost  entirely  filled  with  figurative  material,  would 
cost  a  client  around  fifty  dollars  a  square  foot.   Now, 
that  has  gone  to  pot  because  in  those  days  we  could  buy 
the  most  beautiful  glass  from  Italy,  where  it's  made- 
most  of  the  best  glass  comes  from  Italy--and  we  used  to 
average  about  three  or  four  dollars  per  square  foot  for 
color.   Certain  colors  did  cost  like  seven  or  eight  dollars, 
but  your  average  would  hit  about  three  or  four  dollars. 
That  average  has  gone  to  eight  and  nine  and  ten  now,  for 
example.   Gold  that  used  to  cost  about  ten  dollars  a  foot 
is  now  closer  to  thirty  dollars  a  foot.   This  is  a  simple 
inflationary  fact  that  there's  no  way  of  getting  around. 
Nobody  is  about  to  make  his  own  glass.   We  stock  better 
than  $50,000  worth  of  glass  at  all  times  in  the  studio, 
just  to  keep  working.   So  the  old  fifty-dollar  fee  for 
covering  the  labor,  the  design,  the  installation,  and 


all  of  the  cutting  is  simply  out  of  the  question.   Now, 
it  is  true  that  by  careful  designing,  with  simpler  back- 
grounds, and  then  more  definitive  areas  of  decoration, 
we  can  keep  it  perhaps  in  the  sixty-dollar  field,  but 
we're  not  set  on  any  one  of  these  prices.   I  used  to  get 
almost  anything  cut  for  twenty  dollars  a  foot,  and  now 
it's  about  thirty  dollars  average.   A  person  cutting  full 
time  has  to  be  very  good  to  do  a  couple  of  square  feet  on 
a  head  a  day,  because  cutting  a  head  or  delicate  features, 
that  kind  of  thing,  is  very  difficult.   [tape  recorder 
turned  off]   So  that  has  made  a  big  difference.   Then  the 
biggest  change  of  all  is  installation.   Due  to  the  labor 
union  control  now,  we  cannot  put  up  a  mural  ourselves. 
By  that  I  mean  I  can't  go  out  and  hire  the  top  mosaic 
setter.   I  have  to  go  through  the  union. 
GOODWIN:   What  union  is  that? 

SHEETS:   The  tile  setters  union  [Tile  and  Marble  Helpers 
and  Shopmen] .   We  have  to  go  through  the  union.   The 
setter  has  to  have  a  certain  kind  of  assistant  at  a  cer- 
tain kind  of  price.   He  has  to  buy  the  materials  in  a 
different  way.   I  can't  furnish  the  materials.   So  whereas 
it  used  to  cost  in  the  neighborhood  of  maybe  as  low  as  two 
dollars  a  foot  to  install,  it's  running  now  much  closer  to 
ten  or  eleven  dollars  a  square  foot  to  install.   So  you 
take  the  increase  in  the  mosaic  that  I've  given  you  and 
the  increase  in  the  cutting--almost  every  one  of  these 


has  gone  up  ten  dollars  a  foot.   That's  not  counting  my 
time,  which  has  remained  much  the  same  as  far  as  the 
actual  way  we've  charged.   There  is  the  designing  and 
rendering,  and  then  making  the  color  sketch,  and  then 
getting  it  approved,  then  making  a  full-sized  cartoon, 
then  tracing  it  again  for  the  cutters.   There's  a  tremen- 
dous amount  of  time  involved  in  it.   So  really,  if  I  were 
offered  a  job  tomorrow,  just  on  a  commercial  basis,  I 
don't  even  think  I  could  talk  to  anyone  under  seventy- 
five  dollars  or  eighty  dollars  a  foot,  whereas  in  my  own 
buildings,  we  do  it  nearly  for  cost  because  of  the  impor- 
tance of  the  mosaics  to  the  building.   Obviously,  I've 
got  to  make  the  money  then  some  other  way — fees  that  I 
get  for  designing  architecture  and  for  supervising  and 
all  of  that. 

Now,  painted  murals,  we  used  to  get,  as  a  rule, 
around  twenty-five  dollars  a  foot,  for  a  painted  mural 
done  on  linen  and  mounted  on  the  wall,  either  before  it 
was  painted  or  after  it  was  painted.   We've  had  to  go 
up  at  least  to  thirty-five  dollars  now  because  of  just 
the  increase  of  one  thing  alone,  and  that's  the  linen 
itself.   The  linen  canvas  has  gone  up  incredibly — paints 
also,  and  even  scaffold  rental.   These  are  the  things 
that  are  so  outside  in  a  sense  of  what  the  problem  is, 
but  there  they  are.   Basically,  the  fees  that  we  get 
for  the  overall  design  carry  the  projects. 


GOODWIN:  What  is  the  minimum  amount  you  would  work  for? 
I  know  you  make  exceptions ,  depending  on  particular  con- 

SHEETS:   I've  done  some  of  my  best  jobs  for  nothing.   I've 
done  a  great  deal  of  designing  for  friends,  for  people 
that  I  admire  and  like  and  know  will  appreciate  it.   At 
the  same  time,  I  have  a  very  good  annual  income  based 
upon  the  amount  of  work  that  I  do .   It's  income  that,  by 
working  those  extra  hours  per  day  per  month,  has  always 
been  continuous.   But  I've  done  many  jobs,  like  one  I'm 
doing  right  now.   I'm  doing  the  entrance  to  a  big  museum 
in  Lubbock,  Texas,  all  the  architectural  interior,  I'd 
guess  you'd  have  to  say,  because  it's  a  memorial  to  a 
man  that  I  designed  several  buildings  for  who  recently 
died.   In  this  job  I  don't  think  I'll  get  more  than 
traveling  expenses  and  $1,000  for  a  hell  of  a  lot  of 
work.   But,  you  know,  you  just  have  to  do  it  both  ways 
in  this  world.   That's  just  part  of  my  way  of  life.   But 
I  don't  think  there's  a  set  amount  that  I  would  require 
to  do  a  job. 

First  of  all,  I've  found  that  you  never  know  how 
big  a  job  is  until  you  get  into  it,  until  you  explore  it 
with  your  client.   I  think  this  is  a  terribly  important 
point.   Lots  of  times  a  client  may  have  something  in  mind, 
and  it  may  be  very  big  or  it  may  be  very  small.   If  you 
get  really  inside  the  project  with  them  and  their  thinking 


and  you  really  analyze  the  problem  with  them,  from  your 
experience  you  know  that  they're  either  thinking  in  too 
big  terms  to  do  the  job  or  in  too  small  terms.   You  can 
give  them  a  tremendous  assist.   I  think  that  probably 
one  of  the  reasons  I've  been  successful  working  with 
clients  all  over  the  country  is  that  I  can  get  together 
with  clients  very  quickly  and  discuss  the  matter  until 
we  understand  each  other.   We  have  good  ground  rules, 
and  they  know  that  I'm  not  trying  to  push  a  project  into 
something  that  it  shouldn't  be.   On  the  other  hand,  I've 
told  people  that  they're  making  a  terrible  mistake  not 
to  conceive  of  the  job  in  terms  that  they  must  conceive 
of  it  to  be  successful.   Certainly  in  planning  architec- 
ture, without  enough  land,  you're  in  trouble  today,  with 
the  parking  problems  and  with  all  the  other  things  that 
are  necessary.   A  building  just  shouldn't  come  up  to  a 
sidewalk  and  have  no  front  and  no  chance  for  creating  a 
setting.   I  mean,  lots  of  times  clients  don't  understand 
this.   It's  a  piece  of  business  property,  and  there  it  is 
right  on  the  street,  so  why  not?   Well,  sure,  why  not? 
But  that's  why  our  streets  are  dull  and  why  our  buildings 
are  so  often  mediocre.   You  can't  do  much  with  them.   By 
the  same  token,  they  get  very  extravagant  ideas  sometimes 
about  space.   They  haven't  analyzed  their  problems  to  the 
point  that  they  know  how  much  they  can  get  out  of  much 
less  space  to  create  a  building  of  much  better  quality 


than  they  would  get  if  they  just  built  a  lot  of  bulk 
space.   I  think  this  is  a  hell  of  the  part  of  the 
responsibility  of  being  an  artist  or  a  designer,  and 
I  feel  that  this  is  not  stressed  in  school  to  the  degree 
that  it  should  be. 

The  word  professional  means  social  responsibility. 
I  think  if  you're  going  to  be  a  professional  artist  you 
have  to  look  at  a  job  not  from  the  point  of  view  of  how 
much  you  are  going  to  get  out  of  this,  but  what  is  the 
right  solution  for  the  problem.   Then  your  part  fits  in, 
if  everything  is  fair  and  right.   I  think  this  is  an 
abysmal  lack  on  the  part  of  so  many  artists '  background 
in  their  training.   There's  no  one  that's  ever  really 
brought  this  to  their  attention.   They  get  out  and  they 
have  all  sorts  of  ideas  about  wanting  to  sell  paintings 
at  very  good  prices  without  a  reputation,  without  back- 
ground.  Maybe  they  have  a  lot  of  talent,  but  if  somebody 
asks  them  to  do  a  job,  many  artists  don't  even  know  how 
to  start  talking  about  it.   The  result  is  that  the  pro- 
ject is  closed  off  because  of  their  inability  to  deal 
with  the  problem.   I  feel  so  strongly  that  an  artist 
should  be  trained  in  the  variety  of  skillful  ways,  and 
certainly  one  of  the  ways  is  to  know  how  to  figure  a 

GOODWIN:   Let's  continue  discussing  some  of  your  large 
commissions,  such  as  the  Garrison  Theatre  at  Claremont, 


which  was  finished  in  1966.  I  believe  you  mentioned 
earlier  that  this  was  an  example  where  you  gave  your 
talent  to  the  colleges. 

SHEETS:   Yes.   I  think  it  might  be  well  to  tell  the 
background  of  that  theater,  from  the  point  of  view 
again  of  how  you  face  a  different  kind  of  a  problem. 
It  wasn't  merely  a  matter  of  being  asked  to  design  a 
theater.   Having  been  with  the  colleges  many,  many 
years,  I  saw  many  master  plans  presented  to  the  col- 
leges.  I  saw  a  few  of  them  accepted  and  many  of  them 
never  accepted  because  the  different  colleges  couldn't 
get  together,  then  even  those  plans  which  were  accepted 
being  ignored  after  about  a  year  or  two.   It  was  a  dis- 
turbing thing  to  me  that  people  involved  in  education 
couldn't  see  through  this  problem  and  come  to  grips 
with  the  fact  that  they  were  having  difficulties  within 
their  own  family,  and  yet  they  criticized  everything 
that  goes  on  outside.   So  finally  one  time  I  iifas  asked 
to  discuss  a  problem  with  a  special  committee.   This 
was  when  I  was  on  the  Scripps  board. 

I  went  to  the  meeting  and  found  out  that  they  were 
in  great  disturbance  about  what  to  do  around  the  main 
library  facility  of  the  colleges,  which  was  surrounded 
by  a  sort  of  a  vacuum.   Although  the  library  was  sup- 
ported by  three  different  colleges,  it  had  no  sense  of 
belonging,  let  alone  being  a  center.   So  during  the 


process  of  this  discussion,  it  was  suggested  that  I 
might  see  what  I  could  do  to  pull  this  thing  together. 
Well,  being  somewhat  wary  and  having  watched  all  these 
other  failures,  I  presented  it  to  the  group  this  way: 
I  said,  "I'm  just  going  to  say  first  that  I'm  willing 
to  do  this.   I'd  like  to  work  out  a  plan  for  this  whole 
area,  and  I  will  do  it  without  any  obligation  to  the 
college,  providing  that  the  various  boards  are  informed 
that  they  will  be  invited,  eventually,  to  a  preview  of 
this  master  plan  and  what  I  think  should  happen  in  terms 
of  buildings  and  so  forth  around  this  big  quadrangle.   But 
this  is  without  any  obligation.   The  boards  do  not  have 
to  feel  that  in  any  way  they  should  necessarily  accept 
this.   But  if  they  do  accept  it  as  a  plan,  it  will  be 
followed."   I  wanted  it  in  a  legal  form  that  there  will 
be  no  more  question  about  it.   They  had  a  perfect  right 
to  pay  me  nothing  and  turn  it  down  and  forget  it.   Further- 
more, they  could  choose  anyone  to  design  any  one  of  these 
buildings  in  the  complex,  if  they  followed  the  master 
plan  completely--not  a  style  of  architecture,  but  the 
basic  plan.   They  agreed,  and  I  did  spend  a  great  deal 
of  money  and  a  heck  of  a  lot  of  time  designing  this  whole 
area.   Then  I  went  to  a  very  happy  meeting  at  the 
California  Club.   The  trustees  lived  mostly  in  the  Los 
Angeles  areas,  and  they  met  and  accepted  the  plan.   I 
made  it  very  clear  personally  at  that  meeting,  reiterating 


the  agreement  on  which  this  thing  had  been  done  before 
they  accepted  it.   So  everyone  knew  that  that  was  the 

Well,  shortly  after  that,  I  was  called  by  a  man,  Mr. 
[Robert  H.]  Garrison,  who  said,  "My  wife  and  I  gave  twenty 
years  ago,  a  considerable  amount  of  money "--when  $125,000 
would  have  been  a  lot  of  money — "to  build  a  small,  experi- 
mental theater."   He  said,  "I'm  damned  mad  about  it  because 
nothing's  happened.   They  didn't  give  us  back  our  money, 
on  which  we  could  collect  interest,  even  though  they 
hadn't  used  it.   They've  collected  the  interest,  but 
nothing  has  happened.   I'm  just  damned  mad  about  it." 

So  I  got  in  touch  with  the  president  of  the  Claremont 
Colleges,  the  associated  colleges'  graduate  school,  and  I 
told  him.   I  said,  "This  is  not  the  right  kind  of  a  thing, 
and  this  man's  very  upset  about  it."   He  said,  "I  know 
he's  upset,  and  I  don't  blame  him,  but  we've  never  been 
able  to  get  anybody  off  the  ground.   We've  talked  to 
various  groups  at  different  times  about  what  they  thought 
would  constitute  an  experimental  theater.   Let's  get 
together  with  him." 

We  did,  and  he  said  what  he  wanted  was  a  theater 
that  probably  wouldn't  seat  over  275  people  and  that  had 
a  first-rate  stage  where  they  could  really  do  experimental 
work,  and  it  would  be  available  to  all  the  different  col- 
leges.  So  the  board  then  asked  me  to  proceed  as  a  regular 


commission  to  design  the  theater.   I  had  a  great  deal 
of  fun  working  with  different  members  of  the  staff  and 
with,  of  course,  the  people  who  were  giving  the  money 
as  well  as  the  college  administrative  people.   I  designed 
a  small  theater,  and  we  had  excellent  estimates  of  the 
cost,  which  cost  was  going  to  be  about  twice  what  they 
had  given  originally,  to  do  what  they  wanted  and  to  do 
it  very  well.   It  fit  into  the  overall  scheme  in  the 
right  way. 

Well,  they  were  practically  ready  to  go  ahead  with 
it  when  they  called  in  the  two  directors  of  the  theaters, 
one  from  Pomona  College  and  one  from  Scripps.   Pomona 
College  particularly  just  raised  the  roof.   They  said, 
"We  don't  want  a  little  theater.   We  want  a  bigger 
theater.   We  can't  use  a  little  theater  like  this." 
So  overnight  it  became  not  a  small,  intimate,  experi- 
mental theater,  but  a  theater  that  had  to  take  care  of 
about  750  people.   I  was  asked  then  by  the  board  to  start 
over  again  and  do  a  theater  that  would  be  both  intimate 
and  large.   [tape  recorder  turned  off] 

The  result  of  this  was  that  I  designed  a  theater 
that  had  entrances  from  both  sides  in  the  middle  of  the 
theater.   By  lighting  the  front  part  of  the  theater  as 
the  audience  would  arrive,  they  had  an  intimate  theater 
of  about  300  seats.   Back  of  that,  going  up  at  a  much 
steeper  degree,  there  were  about  450  seats.   Without 


even  using  curtains,  it's  extraordinary  how  you  can 
make  that  into  two  theaters,  just  by  lighting  the  front 
or  lighting  the  whole  theater.   The  price  then  jumped 
into  five  or  six  times  what  the  original  theater  was 
going  to  be,  way  back  to  the  $125,000  of  twenty  years 
ago.   Mr.  and  Mrs.  Garrison  were  extremely  liberal. 
They  gave  better  than  half  of  the  money,  and  they  were 
terribly  excited  about  the  theater.   I  designed  it  then 
as  a  major  part  of  this  new  plan  where  the  big,  heavy 
overhang  in  front  would  have  been  a  part  of  a  continuous 
arcade  going  the  full  length  of  that  block.   Then  it  was 
to  turn  and  go  down  the  other  block  and  surround  this 
library  with  an  arcade. 

Well,  that  was  part  of  the  plan,  so  we  built  it  on 
that  basis.   We  built  it  out  of  brick,  which  we  thought 
would  be  a  nice  material  to  use  in  that  whole  block. 
When  we  got  around  to  the  idea  of  doing  the  big  mural , 
which  I  planned  from  the  beginning  to  do ,  I  realized  that 
with  this  tremendous  increase  in  cost  on  the  building  and 
the  fact  that  in  the  colleges  that  kind  of  thing  becomes 
really  an  extra,  I  went  to  the  people  who  gave  the  money 
for  the  theater,  and  I  said,  "I  will  design  this,  and  I 
will  execute  it  if  you  will  pay  half  of  the  cost  with  me 
of  the  granite."   We  did  split  the  cost,  and  we  gave  it 
to  the  colleges,  the  three  of  us,  literally  as  a  gift. 
But  it  made  the  building  complete,  and  I  really  am  very 


pleased  with  those  mosaics  because  I  think  they  do  sym- 
bolize three  episodes  of  Shakespeare. 
GOODWIN:   Right.   Which  three  are  they? 
SHEETS:   Well,  you  have  Cleopatra  on  the  left,  and  you 
have  Romeo  and  Juliet  at  the  top,  and  then  on  the  right 
you  have  King  Lear.   I  think  there's  a  scale  there  that's 
very  nice. 

Now,  the  disappointment  I  have  in  this  job  is  the 
fact  that  at  the  same  time  we  were  building  this  theater, 
they  went  ahead,  the  same  board,  with  a  plan  for  the 
building  on  the  west,  which  completely  ignored  the  master 
plan.   As  a  result,  that  arcade,  which  should  have  gone 
right  on  down  the  west  side  of  the  complex,  is  not  there, 
although  there  is  some  hope  that  they  will  get  money  to 
complete  that  whole  north  block,  which  will  be  basically 
music,  drama,  and  the  arts.   Their  hope  is  to  get  a  very 
powerful,  big  building  for  a  museum  and  for  the  graduate 
art  school  and  a  music  school  in  between.   There  would  be 
a  covered  walk  the  full  length  of  that  block,  though  it 
would  drop  down  to  a  lower  height  than  the  height  over 
the  entrance  to  the  theater,  which  was  always  planned 
that  way.   It  would  drop  down  to  about,  I  think,  eighteen 
feet,  whereas  I  think  we're  around  twenty-six  or  twenty- 
seven  feet  high  at  the  theater.   That  may  go  ahead,  and 
that  will  help. 

I  also  designed  a  chapel  to  go  in  the  northeast 


corner  of  that  big  complex  with  a  whole  new  concept  of 
a  garden.   How  much  of  that  will  be  done,  I  don't  know. 
I'm  not  there  to  push  it  anymore,  but  we'll  see.   But 
that's  only  one  of  about  fifteen  plans  that  I've  seen 
ignored.   At  least  we  did  that  one  part  of  it. 

As  for  people  who  use  that  [Garrison  Theatre] ,  they've 
had  several  professional  theater  groups  there.   For  two 
summers,  I  think,  they  had  marvelous  theater  groups.   The 
one  from  England  said  that  the  acoustics  are  about  the 
best  they've  ever  found.   Dr.  [Vern  0.]  Knudsen  from  UCLA, 
who  was  a  very  famous  man  in  acoustics — I  think  he  since 
has  died — we  hired  professionally  to  help  us  on  the 
acoustics,  and  they  are  excellent.   They're  just  marvelous. 
There  is  a  full  working  stage,  which  you  can  do  anything 
on.   We  have  ample  room  for  building  scenery  and  storing 
scenery  and  all  that  kind  of  thing.   It's  a  very  fine 
working  theater  in  that  sense. 

GOODWIN:   I've  seen  the  theater,  but  I've  never  attended 
a  performance. 

SHEETS:   Yes,  well,  I'd  like  to  get  you  inside  sometime. 
GOODWIN:   Right.   Here's  another  major  commission;  mosaics, 
I  believe,  for  the  Hilton  Hotel  in  Honolulu. 
SHEETS:   No,  that's  a  tile  decoration.   I  was  working  for 
the  Interpace  Company,  in  charge  of  their  design  group, 
and  the  Hilton  Hotel  approached  me  with  the  problem  of 
wanting  to  symbolize  their  hotel  with  the  rainbow,  which 


is  the  symbol  for  Hawaii.   Well,  when  I  looked  at  the 
hotel  and  saw  that  it  was  280  feet  high  and  that  this 
panel  between  the  windows  on  either  side  was  only  27  feet 
wide,  I  wondered  how  we  were  going  to  get  a  rainbow  into 
280  by  27  feet.   But  we  made  a  lot  of  sketches  and  finally 
saw  that  it  was  possible  to  do  this.   I  presented  the 
sketch,  in  which  the  rainbow  is  treated  in  a  semiabstract 
way,  to  the  Hilton  Hotel  people,  and  they  were  very 
enthusiastic . 

Then  we  had  the  problem  of  trying  to  figure  out  at 
Interpace  what  it  would  cost  to  execute  it  because,  here 
again,  we  were  involved  in  such  a  big  scale.   Again  we 
rented  the  Pan  Pacific  Auditorium,  and  I  remember  that  we 
came  out  to  almost  an  inch  in  swinging  those  great  arcs 
for  the  rainbow.   We  used  the  full  width  and  the  full 
length  of  the  Pan  Pacific,  and  we  actually  used  wire, 
rather  than  cord,  because  there's  so  much  stretch  in  any 
heavy  string.   We  swung  the  radius  on  the  floor  of  the 
Pan  Pacific  for  the  different  colors  of  the  rainbow,  and 
I  drew  the  rest  of  it  in  without  any  difficulty,  just  on 
a  grid  pattern  basis. 

But  then  the  problem  was  how  to  execute  it.   If  each 
tile  had  to  be  painted  by  hand — these  were  twelve-inch- 
square  tiles — I  knew  that  it  would  cost  absolutely 
unlimited  money.   I  didn't  see  how  we  could  get  the 
graduation  of  color,  which  we  wanted;  we  didn't  want 


hard  edges.   So  we  went  out  and  hired  a  group  of  twenty 
or  twenty-five  good  art  students  from  various  colleges  and 
art  schools,  and  I  brought  them  together,  after  we'd  made 
this  tremendous  layout  from  which  we  could  make  tracings 
of  each  area.   I  taught  certain  ones  to  trace  in  sections. 
They  were  working  on  a  space  twenty-seven  feet  wide.   We 
worked  out  techniques  by  getting  the  widest  tracing  paper 
in  the  world,  then  having  them  get  down  on  their  knees 
right  on  top  of  the  tile  which  had  been  all  laid  out,  and 
in  this  way  they  traced  the  design  onto  the  tiles.   Then 
we  built  a  huge  platform  that  we  could  lay  sections  on. 
We  worked  out  a  way  of  suspending  fellows  who  could  use 
spray  guns  for  spraying  the  glaze  on  from  above.   We  did 
this  without  any  chance  for  corrections.   Of  course  when 
you're  glazing,  what  you'll  fire  out  as  red  may  look  green 
when  you  put  it  on,  and  all  the  values  look  alike.   They're 
all  light.   So  we  ran  two  or  three  sections  and  fired  them. 
I  remember  how  worried  the  various  top  people  were  in  the 
Interpace  plant.   They  looked  at  these  things,  and  they 
said,  "Oh,  my  God,  how  do  you  know  what  it  looks  like?" 
Of  course,  every  tile  was  numbered,  and  here  was  a  case 
where  we  had  a  lot  of  tile.   If  you  multiplied  27  times 
280,  you  have  a  lot. 

Finally  I  was  so  harassed  by  these  top  executives  that 
I  said,  "All  right."   By  this  time  we  had  about  4  0  percent 
of  it  done,  and  standing  on  the  ground  beside  it  there  is 


no  way  to  look  at  it.   The  thing's  going  to  go  up  in  the 
air  that  far,  and  you're  going  to  look  at  it  from  some 
distance  anyway.   There  are  two  of  the  panels,  one  on 
each  end  of  the  building,  the  same  size  and  the  same 
design.   It  was  really  a  tremendous  problem.   Here,  again, 
I  think  there  was  about  $240,000  or  $250,000  involved  in 
the  total  project.   The  executives  were  worried  because 
they'd  see  a  little  bubble  once  in  a  while  on  some  tile, 
which  will  happen  once  in  a  while.   Now,  in  an  ordinary 
run  of  tile,  you'd  just  throw  that  tile  out,  but  in  this 
case  we  couldn't  throw  that  tile  out.   It  would  have  been 
very  difficult,  almost  impossible,  to  exactly  duplicate  it. 

So  finally  in  disgust,  after  I  was  pressured  enough, 
I  rented  a  helicopter  this  time,  and  I  took  the  two  top 
men  in  the  company  up  with  me.   I'll  never  forget  it.   We 
took  off  up  there  in  Glendale,  and  we  swung  down  over  the 
parking  lot  where  we'd  laid  it  all  out,  this  40  percent 
that  was  finished.   As  we  approached  it  from  a  hell  of  a 
long  ways  off,  I  knew  we  were  in.   There  wasn't  any  ques- 
tion at  all,  because  the  thing  read  from  a  mile  and  a  half 
away.   We  came  in  at  500  feet,  and  at  500  feet  it  was 
simply  marvelous.   You  couldn't  believe  how  well  it  read. 
So  we  went  up  to  1,000  feet,  then  we  went  up  to  2,000 
feet,  and  that  was  the  last  trouble  I  had  on  the  job. 
The  people  from  then  on  were  extremely  pleased,  and  there 
were  no  problems  until  they  put  them  up. 


Unfortunately,  the  company  that  put  them  up  were 
willing  to  pay  for  a  supervising  engineer,  a  ceramic 
engineer,  for,  I  guess,  the  first  two  weeks  or  something 
like  that.   Then  they  felt  that  because  he  wasn't  exploding 
every  day  with  some  new  problem  and  some  new  suggestion, 
they  didn't  need  him  any  longer.   Because  of  that,  they've 
had  a  very  serious  problem  about  the  mural,  which  should 
never  have  happened.   They  did  not  completely  clean  the 
concrete  wall  behind  the  mural  after  a  certain  height  up, 
and  they  lost  quite  a  few  tile.   These  have  been  replaced, 
and  now  they've  had  to  go  back  and  repin  a  lot  of  those 
tiles  down  again — which  is  utterly  unnecessary,  but  they 
just  simply  got  into  the  situation  of  being  plain  cheap 
when  they  shouldn ' t  have . 

Still,  the  mural  is  very  effective.   It's  quite 
interesting  from  the  sea,  and  when  you  fly  in  from  Hawaii 
on  the  west  end,  you  can  see  it  for  ten  miles.   Everybody 
takes  photographs.   Of  course,  you  can  see  the  other  side 
from  anywhere  around  the  hotel  and  clear  from  the  free- 
way.  It  reads  very  well.   As  a  symbol,  the  Hilton  people 
have  used  that  rainbow  now  throughout  their  whole  chain 
all  over  the  world. 

GOODWIN:   Right.   Uniforms  and  menus. 

SHEETS:   Costumes  and  uniforms  and  menus  and  everything 
else.   And  it  was  a  lot  of  fun.   We  had  some  bad  days 
wondering  for  sure  how  well  we  could  control  it,  but 


those  kids  were  wonderful.  You  know,  many  of  them  stayed 
on.  We  kept  them  on  and  they  worked  there  for  years.  It 
was  good  experience  for  those  kids,  too,  because  they  had 
to  be  a  part  of  a  team,  which  was  a  totally  new  thing  for 
many  of  them.  That  was  the  hardest  thing  for  most  of  them 
to  adjust  to.  They're  used  to  doing  their  own  thing,  but 
here  they  had  to  be  a  piece  of  something  that  was  moving, 
and  it  was  very  interesting. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  talk  now  about  the  Los  Angeles  City  Hall 
East,  where  you  did  two  murals. 

SHEETS:   Right.   This  was  again  with  the  same  company. 
GOODWIN:   Where  is  that  company  located? 
SHEETS :   Interpace  is  the  present  name  for  what  used  to 
be  Gladding-McBean,  which  was  a  very  famous  California 
company.   They  produced  Franciscan  dinnerware  and  Franciscan 
tile.   They  merged  with  Interpace  approximately  twelve  years 
ago  and  became  part  of  a  conglomerate  corporation,  which 
at  the  time  of  this  merger  was  International  Pipe  and 
something  else.   So  they  changed  the  name  to  Interpace. 
It's  a  coined  name.   The  "International"  part  was  all 
right,  but  the  rest  of  it  they  just  made  up.   So  anyway, 
when  the  architect  asked  me  to  do  the  mural  for  the  city 
hall,  he  said  he'd  like  to  have  it  done  in  tile.   Well, 
we  had  worked  long  and  hard  at  developing  this  technique 
where  we  could  fire  all  of  the  colors  at  one  time.   Didn't 
we  discuss  that  before? 


GOODWIN:   Yes. 

SHEETS:   This  was  so  new,  nothing  had  been  done  like  this 
before,  where  you  could  fire  brilliant  reds,  brilliant 
yellows,  greens,  blues,  greys  or  blacks  and  earth  colors 
all  at  the  same  time.   So  I  was  excited  about  using  the 
tile  for  this  mural.   I  worked  up  the  two  sketches,  more 
or  less  depicting  the  idea  of  the  melting  pot,  the  dif- 
ferent cultures  that  make  up  our  culture.   I  think  there 
are  parts  of  that  that  are  particularly  beautiful,  and  I 
think  the  overall  effect  is  interesting. 

GOODWIN:   Does  one  mural  have  a  distinct  subject  and  the 
other  mural  an  opposite  subject? 

SHEETS:   No,  not  the  opposite.   In  each  one  it's  a  con- 
glomerate of  cultures.   I  took  all  of  the  major  cultures 
of  the  world  that  have  been  the  sources  of  our  own  American 
life,  from  the  primitive  to  the  more  sophisticated  cultures 
that  have  come  here,  and  I've  tried  to  do  the  symbols  that 
would  be  as  clear  as  possible  in  representing  each  of  them. 
To  put  it  together  as  a  kind  of  total  mosaic  of  design  was 
a  lot  of  fun,  and  I  think  the  color  is  interesting.   It's 
real  sad  to  me  that  the  lighting,  which  is  so  necessary , 
isn't  there  because  of  the  lighting  freeze.   There's  about 
half-light  on  at  night,  and  no  light  on  in  the  daytime. 
It's  set  back  some  100  feet  from  the  edge  of  the  building, 
where  it's  part  of  the  elevator  wall.   All  they  get  now 
is  a  flat  light  from  way  off,  which  is  not  a  very  good 


light;  and  what  little  they  get  is  less  than  good  light 
because  it  has  a  little  inclination  to  shine,  whereas 
the  down  lights  that  were  a  part  of  the  integral  design, 
all  hidden  in  the  ceiling,  would  have  given  perfect  light 
with  no  shine  on  the  mural,  and  the  color  would  have  just 
flared  out  in  a  beautiful  way.   I  hope  it  will  not  be 
frozen  forever  and  that  the  lighting  will  eventually  be 
done  right.   But  it  was  exciting  to  do,  and  here  again  I 
had  to  use  a  lot  of  people  to  work  with  me  on  the  execu- 
tion.  I  think  I  must  have  had  eight  artists  working  with 
me.   I  had  one  man  that  did  nothing  but  wash  the  bottles 
out  of  which  we  squeezed  the  glaze.   It's  all  hand-squeezed 
from  a  bottle  with  a  little  nozzle  on  the  end  of  it. 
GOODWIN:   Is  that  how  the  painting  is  done,  with  a  bottle? 
SHEETS:   Yes.   The  glazes  are  applied  by  squeezing  out  of 
a  flexible  bottle. 

GOODWIN:   It's  like  decorating  a  cake. 
SHEETS:   Right,  exactly.   Except  we  had  a  variety  of 
nozzles  from  almost  wire-thin  tubes  that  would  let  the 
tiniest  stream  through  to  some  that  would  come  out  pretty 
fast  for  the  big  areas.   With  the  techniques  that  we 
developed  for  bringing  colors  together,  by  putting  on 
the  outlines  with  one  color  and  then  filling  between 
them  with  another  color  and  so  forth,  we  produced  some 
perfectly  beautiful  qualities.   The  color  itself  is  very 
rich  in  these  glazes  that  we  developed.   We  spent  a 


tremendous  amount  of  money  in  research  at  Interpace, 
hundreds  of  thousands  of  dollars  over  a  period  of  nine 
years,  developing  the  ability  to  do  these  things. 

Here  again,  after  a  very  careful,  very  finished 
cartoon  was  made  and  we  had  very  good  color  sketches,  it 
was  fun  to  see  how  you  could  absorb  eight  or  ten  people 
working  and  keep  the  quality  so  that  it  all  looks  like  it 
was  done  by  one  person.   It's  amazing  that  people  can  learn 
to  work  together.   And  that's,  of  course,  another  thing  I 
feel  so  strongly  about,  because  it  gets  away  from  this 
continuous,  egocentric  idea  that  "I've  got  to  show  what 
I  can  do."   There  are  things  that  are  bigger  than  that, 
and  we've  learned  to  work  together  on  all  of  these  projects. 
GOODWIN:   I  went  back  and  looked  at  the  murals  a  few 
weeks  ago. 
SHEETS:   Did  you? 

GOODWIN:   Yeah,  and  I  noticed  a  few  subjects  that  you 
had  mentioned  as  being  influential  in  your  development, 
even  when  you  first  went  to  Europe  in  1929.   You  men- 
tioned how  impressive  the  Avignon  Piet^  was  when  you 
first  saw  it,  and  I  think  that's  in  the  mural. 
SHEETS:   I  used  it,  yes.   To  suggest  the  French  culture. 
What  else?   Well,  I  used  some  German  Gothic  sculpture. 
Sometimes  I  used  people;  sometimes  I  used  art — anything 
that  I  felt  would  best  symbolize  the  special  cultures. 
I  think  the  African  figures  are  nice.   I  think  that  the 


American  Indian  is  all  right.   Of  course,  those  are  much 
easier,  really,  in  a  way  than  the  other  cultures.   I  like 
the  Jewish  scholars.   Do  you  remember  that  particular 
area?   The  Chinese  is  fun.   The  Japanese  is  fun.   It's 
all  fun  because  I  love  all  these  cultures. 

GOODWIN:  There's  a  large  sequence  relating  to  nineteenth- 
century  California  history,  with  the  pioneers  and  the  Gold 

SHEETS:   Right.   It's  sort  of  our  whole  cultural  back- 
ground . 

GOODWIN:   While  we  have  a  little  time  left,  let's  mention 
the  Scottish  Rite  temples  in  Los  Angeles  and  San  Francisco, 
which  were  actually  done  before  the  Notre  Dame  library. 
SHEETS:   The  Scottish  Rite  cathedral  was  one  of  the  most 
exciting  projects  I  ever  had  anything  to  do  with.   It 
came  to  me  in  a  strange  way.   The  head  of  the  Scottish 
Rite  cathedral  here  in  Los  Angeles  at  the  time.  Judge 
Ellsworth  Meyer,  called  me  to  ask  me  if  I  could  go  to 
dinner  with  a  small  group  of  people  to  discuss  an 
"interesting  subject."   I  said,  "Well,  are  you  sure  I 
could  enter  into  the  discussion?"   He  said,  "Yes,  we 
think  you  can."   I  said,  "Do  you  wish  to  discuss  the 
subject  matter?"   He  said,  "No,  not  until  dinnertime." 
Well,  I  went  to  dinner  at  the  [Los  Angeles]  Athletic  Club 
with  him.   I'd  met  him  two  or  three  times  before.   In 
fact,  his  wife,  it  turned  out,  had  been  one  of  my  school 


friends  through  grammar  school  and  high  school.   But  I 
went  to  meet  them,  and  they  were  quite  an  interesting 
group.   There  were  doctors  and  some  lawyers  and  this 
judge  and  two  or  three  others,  eight  people  all  together. 
They  said,  "We  are  going  to  build  a  new  temple."   They 
called  it  a  "cathedral."   I  said,  "Well,  what  kind  of  a 
cathedral?"   They  said,  "Scottish  Rite."   I  was  a  little 
dopey.   I  thought  it  might  be  Masonic,  but  I  wasn't  sure. 
I  said,  "Well,  where  is  your  old  one?"   I  thought  that 
might  give  me  a  clue,  and  they  told  me  where  it  was, 
down  on  Flower  Street,  something  like  that.   Then  I  knew 
that  they  were  talking  about  a  Masonic  temple.   They  said, 
"We  are  trying  to  be  very  thorough  before  we  go  ahead  with 
this  job.   We  have  met  nine  firms  of  architects,  of  which 
at  least  the  principal  men  are  members  of  our  particular 
Masonry  degree  and  also  our  particular  temple.   We've 
discussed  the  matter  at  length  with  each  of  them,  and 
we've  asked  them  for  their  idea  of  how  they  would  approach 
this  problem.   You're  the  only  one  outside  of  the  group 
that  belong  to  the  temple  that  we've  interviewed.   But 
we  would  like  to  discuss  it  with  you.   This  is  strictly 
in  a  discussion  state.   We're  not  deciding  on  anything, 
and  we  don't  know  just  when  we  will,  but  we  definitely 
like  some  of  the  buildings  we've  seen  of  yours  and  would 
like  to  include  you  in  the  discussion." 

So  they  told  me  quite  a  bit  about  what  has  to  be  in 


a  temple  of  this  kind.   I  didn't  dream  that  there  was  a 
huge  auditorium  and  a  huge  dining  room.   The  auditorium 
seats  3,000,  and  the  dining  room  seats  1,500,  and  they 
have  many  lodge  rooms  and  recreation  rooms.   It's  a  city, 
a  tremendous  thing.   They  told  me  a  lot  about  the  project, 
and  they  said,  "Would  this  kind  of  a  thing  appeal  to  you? 
How  would  you  go  about  it?"   I  said,  "Well,  I  don't  think 
I'd  go  about  it  any  differently  than  I  would  any  other 
kind  of  a  project.   As  a  matter  of  fact,"  I  said,  "the 
first  thing  I  would  want  to  do  is  to  prepare  a  very  care- 
fully thought  out  list  of  questions  which  I  would  like  to 
present  to  you  people  for  answers.   You  cannot  design  in 
a  vacuum,  whether  it's  a  big  project  or  a  little  project, 
whether  it's  for  this  kind  of  public  use  or  semipublic  use 
or  private  industry.   It  doesn't  make  any  difference.   I'd 
have  to  know  a  lot  more  about  you.   As  a  matter  of  fact, 
the  first  question  I  would  put  at  the  top  of  my  list  is, 
'Why  do  you  think  you  need  to  build  a  big  temple?   What's 
wrong  with  the  one  you've  got?'   I  don't  know  anything 
about  the  one  you've  got,  except  that  I've  seen  the  out- 
side and  it  looks  horrible.   But,"  I  said,  "that  isn't 
the  important  thing.   The  important  thing  is  why  do  you 
think  you  need  a  temple?  Maybe  the  idea  of  Masonry  isn't 
even  practical  today."   They  really  looked  so  shocked  at 
that!   I  said,  "I  have  no  idea,  not  being  a  Mason,  but  I 
certainly  believe  that  you  should  really  answer  a  lot  of 


questions.   I  don't  think  it  would  make  a  damned  bit  of 
difference  what  I  think  you  should  do  at  this  point, 
because  I  don't  know,  and  I  don't  think  any  other  designer 
or  architect  could  tell  you  any  better,  unless  of  course 
they're  active  members  and  have  a  lot  of  strong  feelings, 
which  I  don't  have.   I  wouldn't  attempt  to  tell  you  what 
you  should  do. " 

They  said,  "Well,  do  you  envisage  any  form?"   I 
said,  "Oh,  no,  I  don't  envisage  any  form  at  all  at  this 
point  because  it's  got  to  grow  out  of  the  function  and 
out  of  the  whole  idea  of  what  you  want."   So  they  said, 
"Well,  why  don't  you  write  us  a  list?"   We  had  a  pleasant 
dinner  party,  and  we  didn't  get  any  farther  than  that, 
but  I  was  happy  to  be  included.   I  spent  a  lot  of  time 
then  for  maybe  six  weeks,  five  or  six  weeks — I  know  I 
didn't  hurry — trying  to  really  think  out  the  problems. 
I  knew  the  site.   The  site  was  magnificent. 


JANUARY  16,  1977 

GOODWIN:   Last  time  we  began  to  discuss  Mr.  Sheets ' s  work 
for  the  Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temple  in  Los  Angeles,  and 
he  had  explained  how  he  was  invited  to  a  dinner  to  learn 
about  the  Masons'  plans  for  a  new  site.   Subsequently,  he 
thought  about  their  needs  for  a  number  of  weeks.   Then,  I 
assume,  you  got  back  in  touch  with  Judge  Meyer. 
SHEETS:   No.   As  a  matter  of  fact,  I  was  very  busy,  and 
I  suddenly  realized  that  about  four  months  had  gone  by. 
I  thought  perhaps  I  had  frightened  them  away  completely 
by  asking  them  the  twenty-five  or  more  questions  of  why 
they  thought  they  ought  to  build  a  temple.   Then  the 
phone  rang  and  it  was  Judge  Meyer,  the  head  of  the  Scottish 
Rite.   He  said,  "Well,  we're  ready  to  answer  your  questions." 
So  we  set  up  another  dinner  party,  and  it  was  an  exciting 
evening.   It  was  one  of  the  really  most  exciting  ones 
because  they  had  done  their  homework.   They  had  worked 
terribly  hard  on  all  of  the  questions  and  had,  I  thought, 
some  imaginative  answers.   They  were  not  in  any  way  tying 
me  or  any  other  designer  down,  but  they  had  some  very  good 
thoughts  about  the  new  relationship  of  Masonry  to  society 
and  why  they  felt  this  was  an  important  time  to  build  the 
temple  and  why  they  wanted  to  truly  represent  the  spirit 
of  Masonry. 


So  without  further  ado,  I  made  many  sketches,  I 
think  three  different  concepts,  which  I  presented  to  a 
smaller  committee  that  they  had  decided  would  be  easier 
to  operate  with.   I  think  there  were  four  people--or 
five,  counting  Judge  Meyer — on  the  committee.   I  made 
the  presentation  of  these  three  different  concepts,  from 
which  they  selected  one.   It  was  the  one  that  we  finally 
followed,  but  it  grew  considerably  in  the  development, 
as  most  of  these  kinds  of  things  do,  both  in  character 
and  in  detail. 

GOODWIN:   What  was  their  basic  need? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  think  I  suggested  to  you  that  I  was 
surprised  by  the  tremendous  number  of  things  that  had 
to  be  incorporated  in  this  temple.   First  of  all,  the 
upper  degrees  of  Masonry  are  given  in  an  auditorium, 
and  they  are  given  in  the  form  of  plays.   They  have 
incredible  costumes  and  magnificent  productions  of  the 
basic  concepts  that  are  ethical  and  have  at  heart  a 
religious  depth,  and  they  draw  from  many  religions,  as 
far  as  I  understand.   I'm  not  a  Mason,  but  I  do  feel 
that  it's  a  tremendous  attempt  toward  the  freedom  of 
man  as  an  individual,  and  the  rights  of  man  as  an 
individual,  and  respect  for  various  races  and  creeds. 
I  won't  say  this  is  always  obtained,  but  certainly 
that's  been  the  spirit.   They  felt  that  they  wanted  to 
depict  this  in  every  form.   That's  the  reason  there's 


so  much  decoration  involved  in  the  temple. 

The  huge  mosaic  on  the  exterior  east  end  of  the 
temple  at  that  time  was  the  largest  mosaic  I'd  ever  made. 
It  starts  out  with  the  builders  of  the  temple  from  the 
days  of  Jerusalem,  and  King  Solomon,  who  built  the  temple, 
and  Babylon.   Then  it  jumps  up  to  the  Persian  emperor, 
Zerubabel.   When  the  crusaders  went  to  the  Holy  Land,  they 
built  a  place  called  Acre,  which  is  still  a  very  important 
historical  monument  to  the  period  of  the  crusaders.   Of 
course,  there  were  other  temples  and  I  showed  Rheims 
cathedral  in  the  process  of  building.   I  showed  the 
importance  of  [Giuseppe]  Garibaldi,  the  Mason  who  broke 
away  from  the  Roman  Catholic  church  because  of  what  he 
felt  was  its  limitations  and  dogmatism.   Ever  since  then, 
there's  been  a  certain  quarrel,  I  gather,  between  the 
Masons  and  the  Catholics.   Then  there  is  King  Edward  VII 
in  his  Masonic  regalia  as  one  of  the  great  grand  masters. 
We  had  the  changing  of  the  guard  at  Buckingham  Palace, 
which  is  part  of  the  King  Edward  section.   I  think  the 
final  part  of  that  mosaic  shows  the  first  grand  master 
of  California  in  his  full  regalia  being  invested  in 
Sacramento.   It's  a  kind  of  historical  thing  going  way 
back  to  the  ancient  temple  builders  and  coming  right  up 
through  to  actual  California  history,  which  the  California 
sun  at  the  top  symbolizes. 
GOODWIN:   Did  they  initially  want  a  mosaic  for  the 


exterior  or  is  that  an  idea  you  presented? 
SHEETS:   It's  an  idea  that  1  developed  as  part  of  the 
building,  because  they  told  me  in  the  very  beginning, 
in  the  answers  to  these  questions  that  they  felt  that 
they  wanted  to  symbolize,  in  the  same  spirit,  that  law 
and  concepts  of  religion  were  involved  in  the  great 
temples.   Certainly  the  Gothic  cathedrals  were  the  book 
for  the  people  who  couldn't  read.   Well,  they  didn't 
think  of  the  American  people  not  being  able  to  read, 
but  they  wanted  to  show  graphically  the  intensity  of 
feeling  throughout  history  toward  the  neaning  of  Masonry, 
So  naturally,  when  I  had  this  as  a  problem,  I  wanted  to 
do  something  very  dramatic  on  the  east  end,  because  that 
is  an  extremely  tall  mural.   I  think  it's  about  seventy 
feet  tall  (I  can't  remember  exactly);  it's  sixty  or 
seventy  feet  high,  and  it's  about  twenty  feet  wide  at 

By  the  same  token,  the  concept  of  the  sculpture 
along  the  south  facade,  which  I  worked  in  collaboration 
with  Albert  Stewart  to  design,  and  then  he  made  all  of 
the  models — it  seems  to  me  there  were  eighty  scale 
models,  which  I  took  to  Rome  and  had  carved  by  a  very 
fine  sculptor  in  solid  travertine.   These  were,  of 
course,  eventually  sent  back  and  placed  on  the  facade. 
And  here  again  are  all  of  the  temple  builders,  each  one 
representing  a  special  builder  going  back  to  ancient 


Egypt  and  coming  on  through  the  time  of  King  Solomon  and 
the  Persian  emperor,  up  to  and  including  George  Washington, 
There  are  also  Albert  Pike,  who  was  one  of  the  very  great 
men  in  the  early  part  of  the  twentieth  century  or  latter 
part  of  the  nineteenth  century,  and  Christopher  Wren, 
who  built  the  great  cathedrals  in  England.   The  two  St. 
Johns  were  interesting,  because  they  were  said  to  be 
patron  saints,  and  they  depicted  two  different  meanings 
entirely.   Then  there's  the  Gothic  builder,  so  it 
symbolizes  the  whole  meaning  of  the  building  of  the 
temple . 

GOODWIN:   How  did  you  decide  to  work  on  such  an  enormous 
scale  with  those  sculptures? 

SHEETS:   I  felt  that  Los  Angeles  didn't  have  anything 
like  this  and  there  should  be  something  that  people 
would  look  at  with  a  little  different  view  than  a  typical 
six-foot-tall  fellow  holding  a  Civil  War  sword  in  his 
hand  on  a  pedestal  in  MacArthur  Park.   I  felt  if  we 
could  get  some  sense  of  bigness  of  spirit,  it  would  be 
exciting.   I  felt  also  that  it  gave  us  an  opportunity, 
carving  these  figures  in  actual  stone,  to  make  a  very 
dramatic  presentation.   The  double-headed  eagle,  which 
was  the  symbol  for  the  Scottish  Rite,  Albert  Stewart 
designed,  and  I  think  it  makes  a  stunning  logo.   We  used 
it  in  four  spots  on  the  temple.   Then  all  of  the  inscrip- 
tions which  we  did  were  carved  in  travertine,  and  the 


different  insignias  of  the  degrees  are  all  parts  of  the 
actual  rites  themselves.   So  it  really  makes  a  book  to 
a  pretty  high  degree  on  the  outside. 

On  the  inside,  there  are  several  sculptured  and 
mosaic  decorations  on  the  interior  of  the  auditorium. 
There's  a  large  mural  depicting  the  history  of  Masonry 
in  California,  starting  with  the  first  houses  which  were 
erected  by  Masons.   It's  all  involved,  and  I  can't  remember 
all  the  details.   There's  also  a  large  mural  in  the  main 
reading  room  off  the  main  library,  which  was  not  symbolic. 
It  was  the  kind  of  thing  I  liked  to  do ,  a  very  interesting 
mood  of  some  ancient  trees,  and  it's  a  totally  different 
type  of  mural.   Then  I  did  murals  in  the  dining  room. 

The  temple  is  like  a  city.   It  has  a  huge  auditorium 
where  they  hold  performances  for  the  degree.   Then  there 
are  four  lodge  rooms  upstairs,  where  the  various  blue 
lodges  meet  to  give  the  lower  degrees.   There  is 
a  recreational  floor  that  has  nothing  but  library 
facilities  and  pool  tables  and  a  combination  of  reading 
room  and  card  room.   There  is  a  very  fine  library,  which 
we  had  a  lot  of  fun  designing.   There  are,  of  course,  the 
locker  rooms  and  all  of  the  other  things  that  make  it  a 
tremendous,  big  building.   It's  four  stories  above  ground 
and  one  below.   There  is  a  huge  dining  room  on  the  top 
floor  that  seats  1,500  people,  where  you  get  an  excellent 
view  of  the  city.   It's  all  under  the  overhang  of  that 


big  roof  that  extends  over  the  balcony  areas . 
GOODWIN:   I  understand  that  the  initiation  fee  for  the 
Masons  is  very  small,  so  what  is  the  source  of  their 

SHEETS:   Oh,  that's  a  good  question.   I  won't  say  they 
are  a  wealthy  organization,  but  it's  extraordinary  the 
amount  of  money  that  members  leave  at  their  deaths  or 
give  during  their  lifetime  to  Masonry.   They  support, 
as  you  know,  so  many  things,  like  the  Shriners'  Hospital 
The  Shrine  is  another  advanced  degree  area,  but  it  is 
more  on  the  social  side.   They  put  on  the  big  East  and 
West  football  games  and  the  Shrine  game,  which  support 
their  children's  hospitals.   They  have  innumerable  homes 
for  children  whose  parents  either  die  or  desert  them. 
They  have  not  only  children's  hospitals  but  other  kinds 
of  hospitals.   I  believe  almost  all  of  their  hospitals 
and  their  homes  for  children  are  nonsectarian.   For 
instance,  in  San  Francisco  they  support  the  magnificent 
Shrine  Hospital  for  Children  where  it  costs  absolutely 
nothing  to  send  a  child,  born  with  a  severe  handicap, 
there  for  countless  operations.   On  the  other  hand,  if 
a  family  is  capable,  has  the  money,  they  can  contribute, 
but  it's  an  astoundingly  well  run  affair.   Sue  Hertel, 
who  works  for  me,  did  a  beautiful  stained-glass  window 
for  the  chapel  in  the  Shrine  Hospital.   I  had  an  oppor- 
tunity to  see  the  hospital,  and  I  couldn't  believe  the 


incredible  things  that  they  do  there.   It's  one  of  the 
most  disheartening  things  in  the  world  to  go  through 
the  hospital  and  see  the  numbers  of  children  who  are 
born  with  handicaps,  but  they  are  given  the  finest 
treatment  there,  and  it's  nearly  all  financed  through 
the  gifts  of  the  people  who  believe  in  Masonry  and  its 
dedication  to  helping  mankind.   Many  Masons  leave  very 
large  amounts  of  money  to  such  institutions . 
GOODWIN:   How  long  were  you  involved  with  the  building 
of  the  Los  Angeles  temple? 

SHEETS:   I  think  from  the  time  that  I  was  first  contacted 
until  we  finished  the  job,  it  would  have  been  at  least 
three  to  three  and  a  half  years.   It  took  about  two  years 
to  build  the  building.   It  took  more  than  a  year  to  plan 
it  in  the  actual  design  stage.   It  took  almost  another 
year  before  that,  while  we  talked  about  it.   Including 
that  six-month  wait,  I  think  it  was  almost  four  years. 

Then  I  did  another  Scottish  Rite  temple  in  San 
Francisco.   I  worked  with  an  architect  who  was  an  old- 
time  Mason  and  who  had  done  the  large  temple  for  Masonry 
in  San  Francisco.   It's  called  the  Grand  Lodge.   It  has 
a  huge  auditorium,  where  many  affairs  other  than  Masonry 
are  held.   I  designed  the  building,  and  his  office  in  San 
Francisco  carried  out  the  plans.   That  is  similar  to  the 
Los  Angeles  temple,  though  perhaps  simpler  in  some  ways. 
We  had  a  tremendous  amount  of  decoration  on  the  inside 


and  a  certain  amount  on  the  outside.   There  is  a  tremen- 
dous grill  that  had  the  great  temple  builders  designed 
right  into  it,  and  we  used  insets  of  mosaics  in  the 
figures,  which  gives  the  grill  a  very  exciting  effect. 
The  grills  are  probably  150  feet  long,  divided  into  two, 
with  a  space  in  between.   It  makes  a  very  interesting 
approach  to  the  building.   You  pass  through  this  grill, 
then  right  into  the  actual  building.   But  inside  it's 
loaded  again  with  a  tremendous  amount  of  decoration,  all 
symbolical.   It  again  has  most  of  the  same  facilities 
that  we  have  in  Southern  California. 

Then  later  I  redesigned  the  interior  of  the  main 
lobby  of  the  Grand  Lodge.   They  had  become  more  and  more 
interested  in  renting  the  lodge  auditorium  to  various 
organizations,  such  as  symphony  orchestras,  concerts, 
and  plays,  and  it  has  become  the  largest  auditorium  for 
that  kind  of  use  in  San  Francisco.   I  had  to  redesign  the 
stage  so  it  could  be  a  combination  of  the  proper  setting 
and  staging  for  the  lodge,  and  at  the  same  time  pliable 
and  useful  for  the  other  affairs.   That  was  exciting. 
We  put  all  new  seats  in,  all  new  everything,  and  designed 
a  great  many  changes  in  the  architecture  itself. 
GOODWIN:   The  Masons  sound  like  a  fascinating  client. 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  found  them  to  be.   My  only  experience 
has  been  these  three  instances,  but  they  know  what  they 
want,  and  they  are  perfectly  fine  to  work  with.   They 


deal  very  directly.   There's  no  bouncing  around.   I  do 
admire  what  they  do  for  society,  because  it's  much  more 
than  a  lodge.   It's  basically  a  thing  that  means  a  tre- 
mendous amount,  I  think,  to  an  awful  lot  of  people  out- 
side of  the  Masons  themselves.   That  kind  of  covers  all 
I  can  think  about  in  terms  of  the  Masonic  temple. 
GOODWIN:   We've  only  mentioned  some  of  the  more  obvious 
commissions  Millard  Sheets  has  done  in  architecture  and 
mosaics  and  murals  and  so  on.   There  are  really  too  many 
to  mention  individually.   But  just  to  give  an  idea  of 
the  breadth  of  his  activities,  I  want  to  mention  also 
the  topic  of  motion  pictures. 

SHEETS:   Well,  I've  had  a  great  deal  of  fun,  really,  as 
well  as  done  a  lot  of  hard  work  with  motion  pictures. 
I've  never  been  involved  to  the  same  degree  as  most  people 
who  become  involved  in  motion  pictures,  but  starting  way 
back  in  the  early  thirties,  I  worked  for  MGM  and  for 
Universal  Studios.   I  worked  on  such  pictures  as  The 
Great  Ziegfeld.   I  can't  even  remember  the  names  of  some 
of  the  others,  but  I  designed  special  sets  and  made 
sketches  for  other  designers,  too,  which  were  then  trans- 
lated, of  course,  into  sets.   From  my  sketches  they  went 
into  architectural  drawings,  then  right  on  into  the  sets. 
Then  later,  in  a  series  of  pictures,  I  worked  with  William 
Dieterle,  the  director,  and  that  meant  traveling  to  Israel 
for  an  extended  trip  of  more  than  two  months,  and  there 


was  a  trip  to  Egypt  which  lasted  about  six  weeks.   We 
worked  on  all  of  the  preliminary  work  and  all  of  the 
background  material.   It  was  my  job  to  serve  not  only 
as  production  designer,  but  to  see  to  it  that  all  of 
the  extras  were  costumed  for  the  huge  scenes  that  occur 
in  biblical  pictures.   In  one  instance,  I  think  there 
were  10,000  people  involved.   I  also  had  the  difficult 
job  at  times  of  going  to  the  cultural  minister,  for 
instance  in  Egypt,  and  showing  him  a  preliminary  script 
which  had  been  written  for  Joseph  and  His  Brethren.   It 
certainly  lacked  everything  that  Thomas  Mann  had  in  his 
book  on  Joseph  and  His  Brethren.   I  had  to  somehow  reassure 
the  minister  of  culture,  who  was  extremely  well  read  on 
the  subject,  about  the  picture,  and  I  had  to  have  him 
place  faith  in  me  and  in  William  Dieterle  to  the  extent 
that  they  were  willing  to  loan  us  the  areas  where  we 
wanted  to  work,  because  we  worked  in  some  of  the  most 
important  areas  in  Egypt.   The  only  thing  he  said  in  a 
sense  of  protecting  himself  was,  "Well,  chances  are  we'll 
never  show  these  pictures  in  Egypt  or  any  other  Arabic 
country."   However,  we  were  given  full  permission  to  go 
everywhere  we  wanted,  and  we  had  some  extraordinary 
experiences — it  would  take  too  long  to  enumerate — but 
up  and  down  the  length  of  the  Nile,  from  Aswan  to  Cairo 
to  all  of  the  great  areas,  including  Thebes.   We  worked 
very  freely.   I  had  to  do  the  research  and  make  the 


decisions  as  to  where  we  were  going  to  shoot,  and  it  was 
very,  very  exciting. 

I  found  the  same  thing  even  more  exciting  in  many 
ways  in  Israel  because  of  the  fact  that  I  had  not  known 
as  much,  perhaps,  theoretically  about  Israel  as  I  had 
about  Egypt.   I  think  in  the  first  three  weeks  that  I 
was  there,  which  was  before  any  staff  came,  except  the 
director,  we  covered — and  I  covered  particularly — almost 
every  inch  of  Israel  that  belonged  to  it  then:   down  into 
the  Negev  desert,  up  to  the  high  mountains,  going  up  into 
Lebanon.   In  covering  this  with  an  Israeli  colonel  and 
driver,  we  crisscrossed  every  inch  of  the  country.   I'm 
sure  that  very  few  people  in  Israel  itself  have  had  the 
experience  of  covering  that  much  territory.   I  really 
enjoyed  it.   I  don't  think  that  we  produced  the  greatest 
pictures,  but  I  certainly  had  a  real  thrill  being  involved. 
GOODWIN:   On  the  subject  of  costume  design,  I  think  there's 
something  you  failed  to  mention.   I  understand  that  you 
did  some  designs  for  academic  gowns  at  Scripps  at  one 

SHEETS:   [laughter]   That  doesn't  really  amount  to  very 
much.   The  girls  were  very  sick  of  the  typical  black  gown 
and  black  cap.   The  colors  of  the  college,  which  were  two 
colors  of  green,  had  been  selected  long  before;  so  I 
designed  a  graduation  robe  in  those  colors  which  have 
been  used  throughout  all  the  years  at  Scripps.   It  was 


kind  of  pleasant  to  see  that  it  could  be  done  in  good 

taste  and  simplicity  and  be  dignified,  but  it  was  no 

tremendous  thing.   I  enjoyed  it. 

GOODWIN:   Did  you  design  banners  to  represent  departments 

and  colleges? 

SHEETS:   There  was  a  banner  that  already  represented 

Scripps.   It  was  designed  by  Lee  Laurie,  and  it  was 

really  based  upon  the  Lee  Laurie  sculpture.   He  made  a 

relief  sculpture  of  The  Sower,  a  theme  he  used  quite 

often,  which  is  a  woman  walking  in  the  field  with  a  bag, 

sowing  the  symbolic  wheat.   We  converted  that  into  a 

banner  and  used  the  colors,  and  it  was  very  handsome, 

but  the  original  design  was  Lee  Laurie. 

GOODWIN:   I  think  you  mentioned  that  you  also  designed 

the  official  seal  of  Los  Angeles  County? 

SHEETS:   Yeah,  I  did,  and  that  was  an  experience.   Did 

I  tell  you  about  that? 

GOODWIN:   No.   I'm  putting  your  work  in  heraldry  in  one 

area . 

SHEETS:   I  was  working  of  course  as  the  director  of  the 

County  Art  Institute  [Otis]  at  that  time,  and  that's  the 

reason  I  was  asked  to  do  it.   The  Board  of  Supervisors 

were  unhappy  about  what  they  had  in  the  way  of  a  kind  of 

map  of  the  county.   One  supervisor,  Hahn,  called  it  "a 

pan  of  fried  eggs,"  which  was  not  exactly  a  very  good 

description.   Anyway,  they  asked  me  to  do  it.   I,  in  turn. 


said,  "What  do  you  want  to  symbolize?   I  have  some  ideas 
about  Los  Angeles  County,  but  you're  the  supervisors,  and 
you  have  all  sorts  of  authorities  at  your  fingertips. 
What  do  you  want  symbolized?"   I  couldn't  get  one  single 
suggestion,  not  one  single  suggestion,  from  any  one  of 
the  supervisors.   So  I  went  ahead  and  made  a  very  finished 
drawing,  which  was  in  color,  of  what  I  thought  might  make 
an  interesting  seal.   I  did  it  in  an  extremely  simple  way 
so  it  would  read  well  in  the  distance  and  so  it  wouldn't 
look  like  a  fried  egg  to  Supervisor  Hahn.   Well,  of  course, 
the  minute  that  I  showed  them  the  seal,  they  started  sug- 
gesting all  sorts  of  themes  that  might  be  added  or  one  or 
two  which  might  be  eliminated.   I  said,  "Well,  that's 
fine.   At  least  this  is  a  kickoff."   But  they  liked  the 
arrangement  of  the  seal:   a  simple  cross  form.   They  said, 
"It's  just  a  matter  of  what  we  put  in  there."   So  I  said, 
"All  right,  now  have  a  huddle,  and  get  your  experts  to- 
gether and  then  tell  me  what  you  want  added  or  taken  out." 
And  they  did . 

Well,  at  the  time  I  was  very  involved  with  my  own 
work  in  addition  to  directing  the  institute,  and  I  had  a 
young  man  working  for  me  who  was  extremely  credible.   He 
wasn't  always  an  articulate  draftsman,  but  he  was  very 
good  in  many  things  that  he  was  doing  for  me.   So  when 
they  finally  gave  me  the  symbols  that  they  wanted  used, 
and  the  one  they  wanted  for  the  diary  industry  was  a  cow. 


So  I  said  to  this  young  fellow,  "Look,  here's  my  layout. 
Doodle  in  a  cow,  and  doodle  in  these  changes  that  we're 
making,"  which  he  did.   We  didn't  even  make  it  in  color. 
It  was  very,  very  rough. 

I  took  the  design  into  the  Board  of  Supervisors  and 
left  it  with  John  Anson  Ford,  who  was  the  chairman.   I 
explained  to  John  that  this  was  strictly  a  preliminary 
rough  sketch,  and  it  was  not  meant  as  the  final  drawing. 
I  didn't  want  to  go  ahead  and  go  through  the  agonizing 
business  or  making  another  long-winded,  finished  drawing 
or  finished  painting,  then  have  them  tell  me  they  wanted 
to  change  some  ideas  again.   So  it  was  presented  on  that 
basis,  and  Hahn,  who  is  such  a  nincompoop  as  far  as  I'm 
concerned  anyway,  immediately  attacked  the  drawing  of  this 
cow.   And  in  nothing  flat  all  of  the  reporters  in  the 
area,  the  Times  and  Examiner  and  the  radio  and  everyone 
else,  picked  this  up  as  a  tremendous  thing  that  the 
director  of  the  art  institute  couldn't  draw  a  cow.   Hahn 
made  a  great  speech  about  the  fact  that  he  thought  it 
was  pretty  sad  when  the  director  of  the  institute  couldn't 
draw  a  cow.   So  it  came  out  over  the  radio  and  in  the 
papers  and  everything  else,  and  of  course  it  made  me  very 
angry.   I  did  have  the  satisfaction  of  telling  Mr.  Hahn 
what  I  thought  of  him  as  a  person  as  well  as  what  I  thought 
of  his  intelligence.   But  in  the  meantime,  they  approved 
every  one  of  the  ideas,  and  I  made  a  finished  drawing. 


Well,  by  the  time  that  drawing  went  through  the 
routine  of  the  cryptographers,  or  whatever  they  call  the 
people  in  the  county  who  translated  the  design  into 
everything  from  silk  screens  to  emblems  for  the  cars, 
and  all  the  other  uses  for  the  seal — I  must  say  it  lost 
some  of  its  original  drawing.   But  I  think  the  overall 
effect  is  good. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  mention  your  work  for  the  United  States 
Air  Force  in  Japan  and  Formosa.   This  was  about  1958? 
SHEETS:   It's  down  there.   [referring  to  notes] 
GOODWIN:   Yes,  1958. 

SHEETS:   It  was  the  period  when  the  Red  Chinese  from  the 
mainland  were  bombing  and  dive  bombing  the  islands  of 
Quemoy  and  Matsu.   It  was  a  very  dramatic  moment  in 
world  peace,  if  we  can  call  it  world  peace  at  that  time, 
and  the  United  States  was  very  much  involved.   They  sent 
a  great  deal  of  material  to  Formosa.   They  sent  planes; 
they  sent  a  lot  of  mechanical  equipment  and  even  a  large 
force  of  mechanics  to  take  care  of  the  planes.   We  did 
no  flying  against  the  Red  Chinese,  but  we  kept  those 
airplanes  going,  and  we  gave  them,  at  that  time,  one  of 
our  best  planes.   They  were  extremely  fast,  and  they 
were  flown  expertly  by  the  Chinese  flyers. 

Well,  the  air  force  asked  me,  as  they've  asked  many 
artists  to  go  on  similar  jaunts,  to  go  to  Formosa  and 
work  at  the  bases  and  document  as  well  as  I  could  what 


was  going  on.   I  did  fly  toward  the  islands.   I  never 
was  close  enough  to  be  really  involved  with  any  actual 
fighting,  but  this  fighting  was  going  on,  sometimes 
three  and  four  times  in  twenty-four  hours,  day  and  night. 
The  Chinese  flyers  would  fly  across  from  Taiwan  when  the 
word  came  that  they  were  about  to  have  another  raid. 
Whereas  the  Red  Chinese  only  had  to  fly  something  like 
eleven  minutes  from  their  mainland  over  to  the  islands, 
it  took  about  forty  minutes  for  the  Free  Chinese  to  go 
over.   But  they  had  this  thing  down  to  a  pretty  excellent 
timing  proposition  with  their  systems  of  warning  and  so 
on.   The  Free  Chinese  air  force  was  really  getting  the 
best  of  it  most  of  the  time.   But  like  so  many  wars,  like 
our  war  in  Korea  and  also,  actually,  in  Vietnam,  the  Free 
Chinese  themselves  were  not  allowed  to  cross  the  line 
over  China.   Although  a  few  planes  were  shot  down,  I'm 
sure ,  over  the  edge ,  the  attempt  was  to  keep  away  from 
the  mainland  itself  and  not  cross  the  shoreline.   But  it 
was  dramatic  and  it  was  very  exciting  to  be  in  the  midst 
of  what  was  a  war,  although  I  was  on  the  sidelines.   I 
certainly  enjoyed  the  whole  experience. 
GOODWIN:   Did  you  do  mostly  watercolors? 
SHEETS:   Yes.   I  always  work  in  watercolor  and  drawings 
when  I  make  trips  of  that  kind.   It's  so  easy  to  carry. 
GOODWIN:   About  how  much  work  did  you  produce? 
SHEETS:   Oh,  I  think — if  I  remember  correctly — I  gave 


the  air  force  approximately  six  or  seven  paintings  when 
I  came  back,  finished  paintings,  which  are  in  their 
archives.   They  have  a  very  large  collection  now  of 
paintings  done  by,  oh,  I  would  guess  perhaps  fifty  or 
sixty  artists  from  the  United  States  in  different  combat 
zones.   Of  course  a  lot  of  it  is  in  peacetime,  too.   It's 
not  all  war — fighting.   But  it's  a  very  large  collection, 
and  some  very,  very  good  artists  have  gone. 

You  go,  if  you're  invited  to  go,  with  the  rank  of  a 
colonel.   The  only  embarrassing  part  of  that  whole  trip 
was  that  every  time  we  got  on  an  airplane,  starting  out 
here  in  Sacramento,  I  went  to  sleep  in  the  officers' 
waiting  room,  because  the  plane  was  always  a  little  late 
taking  off.   They  would  suddenly  waken  me  and  say,  "You 
have  to  get  on  board  before  anybody  can  go  on  board, 
including  even  the  pilots."   Well,  I  was  very  embarrassed, 
but  that  happened  a  half  a  dozen  times.   I  didn't  go  to 
sleep — I  don't  mean  that — but  every  time  we  got  ready 
to  go  on  the  plane,  everybody  stood  and  waited  for  me 
to  go  on  board.   I  felt  like  a  fool,  but  that  was  the 
procedure . 

GOODWIN:   In  1960  and  '61,  you  were  a  lecturer  for  the 
State  Department  in  Turkey  and  Russia. 

SHEETS:   What  they  really  called  those  programs  was  the 
American  Specialist  Program.   Unlike  an  ordinary  cultural 
exchange,  which  many  people  have  gone  on,  we  had  a  program 


where  we  exchanged  similar  people,  people  who  had  the 
same  kind  of  activities.   I  was  involved,  of  course,  in 
education;  I  was  involved  in  architecture;  I  was  involved 
in  painting  and  to  a  degree  in  planning  and  that  kind  of 
thing.   So  it  was  always  very  exciting  because  each  time 
I  went  it  gave  me  a  great  deal  more  choice  and  leeway  as 
to  where  I  wanted  to  go  and  to  the  people  we  met. 

The  trip  to  Turkey  was  fabulous.   The  State  Department 
was  not  willing,  in  any  way,  to  consider  sending  ray  wife 
with  me,  but  I  felt  that  partly  because  I  traveled  so 
much  without  her  during  the  days  when  our  children  were 
young  and  also  because  if  we  went  as  a  married  couple 
we  would  have  access  to  many  experiences  that  I  couldn't 
have  as  a  single  person.   It  was  absolutely  borne  out  in 
both  experiences.   Because  of  Mary  being  with  me,  we  were 
able  to  go  in  and  out  of  homes,  meet  many  more  people, 
and  have  many  experiences  I  know  I  never  would  have  had 
if  I  had  been  alone.   In  addition  to  that,  she's  marvelous 
with  people,  and  I  think  she  gave  a  very  great  deal  of 
credit  to  our  country  by  her  spirit  of  wanting  to  know 
about  and  to  get  acquainted  with  people  and  to  being 
sensitive  to  so  many  things  in  their  lives,  with  women 
as  well  as  with  men.   I  know  it  was  extremely  important. 

Well,  we  arrived  in  Turkey,  in  a  very  cold  winter. 
I  spent  several  days  in  Istanbul,  where  I  lectured.   Then 
I  met  and  had  discussions  with  people  in  the  universities 


on  problems  both  in  architecture  and  in  painting. 
GOODWIN:   Did  you  give  any  demonstrations? 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I  gave  at  least  two  or  three  demonstrations, 
I  think,  on  that  trip.   In  both  instances,  they  wanted  me 
to  paint.   I  didn't  really  do  much  painting  in  Turkey — I 
did  some.   But  the  time  was  so  confusing,  and  it  was  in 
such  a  terrible  part  of  the  winter  that  I  wasn't  really 
well  organized. 

We  went  from  Istanbul  to  the  first  capital  of  ancient 
Turkey,  Edirne,  which  is  in  the  very  far  northwest  corner 
of  Turkey,  where  Bulgaria  and  Greece  come  together,  and 
it  is  fantastic.   I  gave  lectures  there,  and  we  saw  some 
of  the  ancient  buildings. 

One  of  the  most  interesting  ones  was  a  huge  building 
for  the  treating  of  the  mentally  disordered.   Way  back  in 
the  twelfth  century  or  even  earlier,  this  whole  building 
was  designed  to  aid  in  the  treatment  of  the  patients. 
Water  was  used  as  one  of  the  most  important  parts  of 
the  therapy.   There  were  many  ways  that  they  had  water 
dripping  and  water  running  and  spouting  in  little  foun- 
tains.  The  doctors  maintained  that  it  had  a  tremendous 
influence  upon  the  mental  attitude  of  the  people  they 
were  treating.   It  was  really  a  magnificent  building. 
It  had  not  only  the  main  open  areas,  but  it  had  beautiful 
courts,  and  the  rooms  themselves  seemed  to  have  been 
pretty  beautifully  thought  out.   So  it  was  fun  to  see 


that  even  that  early  that  thought  was  given  to  the  mental 
problems  to  the  degree  that  it  was. 

Then  from  Edirne  we  went  back  to  Istanbul  and  spent 
more  time  there.   Then  we  went  up  to  Ankara,  the  capital 
of  Turkey,  in  Anatolia,  the  Asian  part  of  the  country, 
and  it  was  bitter  cold.   It  was  right  in  the  dead  of 
winter,  below  zero  a  good  part  of  the  time,  snow  all 
over  the  ground.   We  met  with  State  Department  people 
and  other  Americans  who  were  there  on  various  assignments , 
as  well  as  with  a  number  of  fascinating  Turkish  groups. 
We  saw  the  great  Hittite  museum  and  other  places  of 
interest,  and  then  we  took  off. 

I  had  a  driver  come  up  from  Istanbul  at  my  expense, 
and  we  drove  almost  3,000  miles.   We  went  to  Bursa,  to 
Kayseri,  and  we  went  to  Goreme ,  where  the  early  Cappadocian 
Christians  carved  out  and  painted  their  churches  in  the 
great  conical  mounds  that  rose  above  the  barren  earth 
like  enormous  anthills,  some  as  high  as  200  feet.   These 
huge  stone  mounds  were  carved  into  not  only  living  areas, 
but  chapels  and  refectories.   It  was  one  of  the  most 
beautiful  and  exciting  places  I've  ever  been.   A  stark 
lunar  landscape.   Then  we  drove  on  through  the  whole  of 
upper  Anatolia  to  a  fascinating  Kurd  village  and  to 
many  small  towns.   It  was  bitterly  cold  and  deep  in  snow. 
We  were  told  that  there  were  wolves  everywhere,  which 
scared  our  driver  nearly  to  death.   Parts  of  the  country 


were  really  wild  and  the  peasants,  in  their  poor  villages, 
looked  as  miserable  as  people  could  be.   We  drove  through 
the  rugged  mountains  and  then  dropped  down  into  blossoming 
orange  groves  and  fruit  orchards  where  spring  was  bursting 
forth,  into  a  totally  different  world.   We  came  out  at 
Adana  at  the  eastern  end  of  the  Mediterranean.   I  lectured 
there,  then  we  started  on  a  trip  that  we  were  advised  not 
to  take  because  the  road  wasn't  completed.   We  drove  the 
full  length  of  the  Turkish  coast  of  the  Mediterranean 
Sea.   And  other  than  for  twenty-seven  blowouts  and  some 
incredible  experiences,  we  had  an  exciting,  beautiful 
trip.   We  saw  ancient  Roman  ruins,  theaters,  and  fortresses, 
and  dramatic  crusaders'  castles,  some  rising  out  of  the 
sea.   We  came  to  one  city,  Antalya,  where  the  Romans 
built  many  of  their  warships.   They  had  planted  cypress 
trees  all  over  Yugoslavia  and  parts  of  Turkey,  and  these 
were  used  not  only  as  mastheads  but  as  construction 
material  for  the  fighting  boats.   There  were  two  huge 
caves  in  this  town,  which  they  used  as  protection  from 
the  weather  to  do  a  lot  of  their  work.   They  had  a  very 
beautiful  sort  of  a  quai  built  out,  along  which  they 
could  moor  their  vessels.   It  was  an  amazing  place.   We 
had  taken  a  Turkish  interpreter,  Nilglil  Matters,  with 
us.   She  was  a  brilliant,  young  woman  who  understood 
and  spoke  English  extremely  well.   She  had  been  educated 
in  the  United  States  and  had  married  an  American,  Bob, 


who  had  come  back  with  her  to  Turkey  to  teach,  and  they 
had  two  children.   She  became  my  interpreter,  and  she 
was  excellent.   On  this  particular  trip  we  included  her 
husband.   We  had  been  without  any  kind  of  decent  housing 
or  food  or  anything  else  for  several  days,  and  we  looked 
forward  to  this  particular  town,  Antalya,  with  great 
excitement,  because  we  were  told  that  there  was  a  good 
hotel  and  food  that  was  reasonably  edible.   We  arrived 
in  the  town  at  ten  o'clock  at  night,  after  I  don't  know 
how  many  flat  tires  that  day,  to  find  that  it  was  the 
one  night  of  the  year  when  they  had  a  great  vaudeville 
show  in  the  town  auditorium. 

All  the  people  who  could  came  from  far  and  near  to 
see  the  show,  and  they  had  taken  every  single  bit  of 
lodging.   After  going  to  the  police  station,  we  found 
that  there  was  nothing  whatsoever  to  be  had  unless  we 
could  get  to  the  mayor,  who  was  sitting  up  on  a  little 
ledge  in  the  middle  of  the  auditorium.   All  of  us,  and 
our  gals  particularly,  were  just  worn  out  and  we  had  to 
find  rooms.   So  Bob  and  I  finally  went  to  the  theater, 
and  climbed  a  ladder  up  in  the  middle  of  all  the  people 
to  this  little  balcony  and,  with  another  interpreter, 
explained  our  situation  to  the  mayor  .   He  clapped  his 
hands,  the  show  stopped,  and  he  shouted  down  to  a  man 
who  ran  a  restaurant,  if  you  could  call  it  that.   He 
said,  "Go  to  your  restaurant  now  and  take  care  of  these 


people.   You  stay  at  the  restaurant;  then,  when  the 
show  is  over,  my  wife  and  I  and  some  other  people  will 
pick  you  up,  and  we'll  see  that  you're  taken  care  of." 
Well,  it  was  fantastic.   At  the  restaurant,  all  that  was 
left  after  the  big  feed  before  the  show,  that  we  dared 
to  eat,  were  a  few  hard-boiled  eggs  and  some  oranges. 
The  rest  of  the  leavings  were  just  out  of  the  question. 

Well,  sure  enough,  after  the  show,  they  came  and 
picked  us  up,  and  my  wife  and  I  spent  the  night  in  the 
mayor's  home,  and  the  other  couple  spent  the  night  with 
someone  else  high  in  their  official  life.   In  both  cases, 
we  know  that  they  gave  us  their  own  bed,  and  they  slept 
on  the  floor,  which  is  real  hospitality.   We  couldn't  do 
a  thing  about  their  giving  up  their  beds;  they  were  so 
gracious  and  so  positive  about  it. 

Next  morning  we  had  breakfast  and  went  down  to  see 
the  hospital,  which  they  were  very  proud  of.   We  spent 
about  two  hours  going  through  the  hospital,  which  was 
extremely  far  ahead  for  its  time  and  place.   Then  we 
toured  some  areas  where  there  were  ancient  fortresses. 
We  climbed  the  top  of  this  high  mountain  and  explored 
the  town.   When  we  were  all  set  to  leave,  we  were  still 
concerned  because  we  had  no  spare  tire,  and  it  was  a 
long  way  to  where  we  wanted  to  go  to  our  next  stop  at 
the  western  end  of  this  Mediterranean  coast.   We  tried 
every  place  to  buy  tires  but  there  were  just  none 


available,  not  even  retreads.   The  man  at  the  hospital 
said,  "Well,  now,  I  think  it's  not  safe  for  you  to  go 
without  a  spare,  so  we're  going  to  send  a  jeep  with  a 
couple  of  people  along  to  follow  you  and  see  to  it  that 
you  get  there  safely."   There  was  no  way  that  we  could 
pay  graciously  for  all  of  this  hospitality  without 
insulting  our  hosts.   We  had  no  goods  to  give  as  gifts. 
Finally  our  interpreter,  Nil,  said,  "Well,  I  think 
the  best  thing  to  do  is  to  make  a  gift  to  the  hospital." 
So  I  went  with  her  over  to  the  hospital  again  and  met 
the  director  and  told  him  how  much  we  appreciated  every- 
thing.  I  said,  "Just  to  show  our  appreciation,  we'd  like 
to  make  a  gift."   I  had  in  mind  something  like  fifty 
dollars — I  don't  remember  exactly,  but  fifty  dollars  was 
a  great  deal  of  money  in  Turkey  in  those  days.   Being 
just  in  the  middle  of  that  period  where  I  didn't  see 
too  well  without  my  glasses,  I  gave  him  a  bank  note, 
which  I  thought  was  about  fifty  dollars,  and  we  left. 
When  we  were  leaving,  he  was  very  excited,  and  he  wanted 
me  to  have  a  receipt.   After  much  talk  and  much  waiting 
Nil  came  running  up  with  this  receipt,  which  I  put  in  my 
wallet,  and  we  left.   She  said,  "Do  you  have  any  idea 
what  you  gave  him?"   I  said,  "I  think  it  was  about  fifty 
dollars,  wasn't  it?"   Well,  I  can't  remember,  but  it  was 
more  like  $250.   I  hadn't  meant  to  be  so  extravagant, 
but  on  the  other  hand,  I  certainly  wasn't  too  unhappy 


about  it.   Well,  this  just  shows  you  sometimes  that 
there's  something  else  operating  outside  of  yourself, 
We  left  the  town,  and  the  jeep  followed  us. 


JANUARY  16,  1977 

SHEETS:   We  left  about  one  o'clock  or  one-thirty,  and 
at  four  o'clock  that  afternoon,  a  band  of  wild  wolves 
that  were  infected  with  rabies  just  simply  ran  through 
the  town  biting  right  and  left.   I  don't  know  how  many 
people  were  bitten,  but  the  exciting  thing  about  that 
funny  little  gift  is  the  fact  that  it  was  that 
much  money  allowed  them  to  buy  enough  serum  to  take 
care  of  the  whole  problem  for  the  town.   It  just  seemed 
to  be  fated  and  we've  been  very  grateful  that  it  happened 

that  way. 

Well,  we  saw  absolutely  magnificent  Roman  ruins  and 
beautiful  cities  along  the  way,  many  of  them  in  semiruin. 
As  we  were  driving  up  towards  Izmir,  we  saw  the  most 
exciting  processions  of  camels  in  the  brightest  regalia, 
with  all  sorts  of  people  on  foot  and  people  with  various 
musical  instruments  and  whatnot  going  along  the  road  all 
headed  toward  one  direction.   We  finally  came  to  a  small 
town  where  there  was  a  complete  festival,  put  on  by  the 
mosque  as  a  money-raising  event.   We  found  that  there 
was  a  camel  wrestling  contest  going  on,  a  sport  we'd 
never  heard  of  before.   These  camels  are  incredible  in 
the  way  they  actually  wrestle.   The  owners  get  them  into 
a  very  high  state  of  excitement  with  wild  music  on  drums 


and  horns  and  by  having  a  she-camel  in  heat  tethered 
nearby,  and  then  they  lead  two  males  into  the  middle  of 
the  field  where  they  try  to  throw  one  another  by  forcing 
the  head  down  with  blows  from  their  snakelike  necks. 
They  fight  in  full  regalia,  and  it  was  a  tremendously 
exciting  experience.   We  stopped  to  explore  Ephesus, 
then  we  went  on  to  Izmir  for  several  days  of  talks  and 
meetings,  and  then  finally  we  drove  back  up  through  the 
most  famous  parts  of  Turkey  to  Istanbul  for  a  few  more 
days,  and  that  was  the  end  of  a  fabulous  adventure. 
GOODWIN :   How  long  were  you  in  Turkey? 
SHEETS:   A  little  more  than  two  months. 

Then  the  other  trip,  which  was  to  Russia,  was  a 
tremendous  experience.  We  were  there,  again,  in  the 
dead  of  winter.  We  arrived  in  November  and  left  two 
days  before  Christmas.  I  had  the  same  experience,  first 
of  all,  of  taking  my  wife,  at  my  expense,  which  was  the 
smartest  thing  I  could  have  done.  Even  more  than  in 
Turkey,  doors  opened  that  never  would  have  opened  in 

We  were  briefed  in  Washington  by  the  State  Department 
for  almost  a  week,  and  I  have  never  had  as  much  misinfor- 
mation given  me  in  my  life.   I  can  understand  now,  I 
think,  why  I  was  misinformed.   I  think  that  the  State 
Department,  as  it  operates  in  Russia,  and  the  people  in 
the  news  services  are  tremendously  handicapped  and  held 


down.   Entrapment  is  always  on  their  mind  and  every 
other  kind  of  pressure.   They  know  everything  is  bugged. 
Being  a  guest  of  the  Russian  government,  we  did  not  have 
this  experience,  and  they  allowed  us  freedom  that  very 
few  people  have.   There  were  only  ten  people  a  year  at 
that  time  that  were  being  exchanged.   I  believe  also  that 
the  particular  thaw,  just  after  Khrushchev  had  denounced 
Stalin  and  not  too  long  before  Khrushchev  was  overthrown, 
made  it  a  perfect  time  to  be  in  Russia.   I  was  told  that 
we'd  never  be  allowed  to  go  where  we  wanted  to  go.   We 
would  never  go  into  people's  homes.   We'd  never  see  the 
same  person  more  than  twice.   It  would  just  be  set  up  so 
we  wouldn't  get  really  acquainted  with  anyone,  and  they 
said  I'd  never  be  able  to  give  a  lecture. 

I  took  about  800  slides  with  me,  hoping  that  I  could 
give  a  talk,  maybe  with  40  or  50  slides  on  American 
architecture  and  40  or  50  on  the  history  of  American 
painting.   I  had  a  lot  of  slide  groups  like  that,  in 
addition  to  a  fairly  complete  resume  of  my  own  painting 
and  of  a  lot  of  the  murals  in  the  buildings  we  were 
working  on,  and  then  the  two  different  houses  we  lived 
in — the  one  up  on  the  coast  and  the  one  we  still  had 
down  in  Southern  California  at  that  time.   I  thought 
these  would  be  fun  to  show.   Well,  they  said,  "You'll 
never  get  a  chance."   I  had  a  little  Japanese  projector 
that  you  could  collapse  down  into  a  small,  about  4x6, 


box.   I  could  take  that  thing  with  a  3 5 -millimeter 
Kodachrome  slide  and  throw  it  up  ten  or  twelve  feet 
square.   It  had  a  great  deal  of  power  in  the  lens. 
I  took  the  different  gadgets  you  have  to  have  to  change 
the  different  currents,  so  we  were  all  set.   But  the 
State  Department  said,  "No  way.   You  won't  be  able  to 
do  it.   But,"  they  said,  "when  the  official  asks  you 
where  you  want  to  go,  take  a  big,  deep  breath  and  just 
rattle  off  all  the  places,  hoping  he'll  give  you  a  few." 

Well,  when  I  did  this,  the  man  stopped  me  in  a  very 
quiet,  smiling  way  and  said,  "Well,  Mr.  Sheets,  how  long 
were  you  going  to  be  here?"   We  told  him.   He  said,  "Well, 
if  you  extend  that  three  months,  which  we'd  be  glad  to 
have  you  do,  you  can  go  to  all  these  places,  but  in  the 
meantime,  where  do  you  want  to  go?"   So  we  told  him  where 
we  wanted  to  go,  including  central  Asia,  and  we  went  to 
all  of  those  places.   In  that  sense  we  were  shocked  right 
off  the  bat,  right  at  the  start. 

Then  we  noticed  that  wherever  we  were  set  up  in 
hotels,  we  were  given  very  special  treatment.   We  didn't 
live  in  any  of  the  typical  hotels  for  the  Intourist. 
We  had  a  fantastic,  wonderful  woman,  Lydia  Moroshkina, 
who  served  not  only  as  our  guide  and  interpreter  but 
became  a  great  friend  of  ours.   She  was  a  woman  who 
didn't  work  primarily  as  an  interpreter.   She  translated 
British  and  American  plays  and  books  into  Russian  theater 


and  motion  picture,  so  she  understood  our  idioms.   She 
didn't  speak  English  as  well  as  she  might,  but  she 
understood  everything  about  our  language  and  could 
translate  our  same  idiom  into  the  Russian  idiom.   So 
right  from  the  beginning,  we  felt  comfortable  with  her. 
We  stayed  in  these  very  nice  hotels,  the  Sovietskaya  in 
Moscow  and  the  Astoria  in  Leningrad,  where  they  had  it 
arranged  so  that  I  had  a  big  room  to  work  in,  in  addition 
to  a  sitting  room  and  bathroom  and  bedroom. 

Then  they  kept  pushing  the  idea  that  I  should  paint. 
Well,  from  the  beginning,  I  started  to  paint.   Being  in 
the  middle  of  the  winter,  it  was  beautiful:   all  deep  in 
snow.  Red  Square  and  out  at  Zagorsk,  which  is  a  great 
religious  center,  the  only  one  left  in  Russia,  I  guess, 
where  they  train  men  for  the  clergy.   It's  an  ancient, 
beautiful  place,  and  the  drive  out  there  from  Moscow  was 
absolutely  magnificent. 

We  went  into  dozens  of  artists'  studios.   I  spoke 
the  first  time  at  the  Moscow  artists'  union,  which  is 
not  like  our  American  unions;  it  is  more  like  a  guild. 
I  was  asked  to  speak  there,  and  after  that  first  time  I 
met  some  of  these  artists.   From  there  on  we  were  just 
constantly  being  asked  to  give  talks  and  slide  shows, 
and  I  think  I  gave  seventeen  lectures  all  over  the  Soviet 
Union:   in  Armenia  and  central  Asia,  Moscow  and  Leningrad. 

The  people  were  so  hungry  to  learn  anything  they 


could  about  this  country  from  people  who  actually  lived 
there,  that  when  they  found  out  about  the  slides,  my 
problem  each  time  was  they  wanted  to  look  at  the  whole 
800.   They  didn't  care  about  looking  at  a  handful.   If 
I  lectured  for,  say,  two  hours  with  my  interpreter — 
which,  of  course,  is  a  slow  job  by  the  time  you  take 
time  to  interpret  and  show  all  these  slides — they  would 
ask  questions  for  three  or  four  hours.   Then  we'd  end 
up  going  from  the  lecture  to  the  most  exciting  homes. 
We  would  be  met  there  by  a  dozen  or  two  dozen  people, 
with  unusual  food  and  drink,  which  they  had  made  a 
tremendous  effort  to  have.   Then  they  would  show  me 
some  of  the  works  that  they  were  doing.   Some  of  them 
were  working  on  very  large  murallike  panels.   Lots  of 
them  were  just  painting  straight  easel  paintings.   I 
was  surprised  and  pleased  to  discover  that  a  great  many 
of  them  had  very  fine  recording  instruments,  and  they 
were  recording,  from  the  BBC  broadcasts  and  from  the 
American  broadcasts,  all  of  our  best  modern  music.   Not 
only  that,  they  had  libraries  of  the  most  up-to-date 
contemporary  art  of  the  world.   They  had  books  on  prac- 
tically every  major  artist  of  the  last  century.   They 
were  very  much  aware,  even  though  they  were  being 
prohibited  to  do  any  of  these  things  by  their  govern- 
ment, of  what  was  being  done  outside.   They  were  painting 
and  not  showing.   They  were  hiding  these  things.   I  saw 


a  tremendous  number  of  the  paintings  that  they  wouldn't 
dare  show  to  the  public,  but  they  did  have  enough  con- 
fidence in  me  to  show  them  to  me. 

We  were  in  Leningrad  and  then  again  in  Moscow  and 
then  down  to  a  country  that  I  hadn't  really  thought 
would  be  that  exciting;  but  I  think  that  Yerevan,  the 
capital  of  Armenia,  is  a  fascinating  area,  and  the 
people  are  marvelous.   I  met  the  most  interesting 
painters  there.   We  were  through  and  in  and  out  of  the 
great  museums,  as  we  had  been  in  Leningrad,  where  I  had 
days  in  the  great  museum,  the  Hermitage.   Behind  the 
scenes,  we  could  do  anything  we  wanted.   We  saw  every- 
thing.  They  were  extremely  good  about  it.   We  were  in 
Armenia,  I  think,  about  ten  days,  and  then  we  flew  from 
there  to  Uzbekistan  where  we  visited  Tashkent  and 
Samarkand . 

The  whole  experience  was  thrilling,  I  think  mostly 
because  we  were  able  to  bring  to  these  people — and  we 
met  all  facets  of  life  in  Russia  and  these  other  areas — 
the  fact  that  as  Americans  we  were  not  warmongers,  we 
were  not  out  to  destroy  them,  which  their  papers  told 
them  every  day  we  were  going  to  try  to  do.   We  had  some 
incredible  arguments  and  marvelous  conversations,  very 
openly.   We  didn't  hide  anything.   If  they  asked  me  even 
what  I  thought  of  Khrushchev,  I  told  them.   These  were 
not  always  easy  things  to  do.   Right  in  the  middle  of  a 


talk  in  Leningrad  someone  said,  "What  do  you  think  of 
Khrushchev?"   I  answered  exactly  what  I  thought.   I 
said,  "I  think  that  he  must  be  a  very  important  person 
in  your  life,  and  he  certainly  seems  to  have  had  a 
tremendous  influence  and  to  have  done  a  great  deal  of 
good  in  your  country.   But  as  a  world  diplomat,  I  don't 
think  that  he's  been  the  right  man  to  send  to  the  United 
Nations,  when  he  gets  up  and  pounds  the  rostrum  with  his 
shoe."   They  laughed,  and  it  was  all  done  very  easily. 

When  we  left  Russia,  a  woman  official  whom  we'd 
met  at  almost  the  beginning  of  the  trip,  who  had  been 
very  anti-American  and  anti-us  in  particular,  not  only 
turned  around  completely,  but  she  insisted  upon  taking 
us  to  the  airport  in  order  to  get  us  through  customs 
very  easily.   She  said  that  we  were  unlike  so  many 
Americans  and  British  who  come  to  Russia.   They  smile 
and  say  nice  things  but  go  home  and  write  dirty  articles. 
She  said,  "You've  said  everything  the  way  you  felt  it, 
and  we  will  welcome  you  back  at  any  time  in  the  future." 
So  we  felt  really  pleased.   I  said,  "Well,  have  you  heard 
all  the  things  that  I've  said?"   She  said,  "I  know  every- 
thing that  you  said."   So  I  guess  they  had  a  pretty  good 
record  of  it. 

But  we  were  in  and  out  of  homes.   We  were  in  every 
kind  of  art  situation.   I  admire  a  great  many  things 
about  the  dedication  and  the  feeling  of  these  people 


about  their  country.   Most  of  the  people  who  are  against 
communism  have,  of  course,  been  eliminated,  so  they 
don't  have  a  very  strong  group  against  them.   They're 
very  critical,  some  of  them,  of  many  things  about  their 
government  and  about  their  system,  but  they  still  believe 
that  it's  going  to  be  fine  because  when  the  bureaucrats 
who  are  uneducated  die  off,  they  will  be  replaced  by  the 
enlightened  bureaucrats  and  leaders.   It's  always  only 
five  years  down  the  road.   Well,  of  course  it  is  never 
going  to  be  that  way.   I  must  say  they're  so  much  like 
a  cross  section  of  Americans.   They're  very  dynamic; 
they're  extremely,  extremely  friendly,  very  hospitable, 
very  gay  and  full  of  excitement  about  things.   The  only 
thing  I  really  don't  like  is  their  government.   I  think 
the  people  are  just  as  wonderful  as  their  government  is 
lousy,  and  they  said  the  same  thing  about  us.   But  we 
were  given  a  fantastically  beautiful  trip,  and  I'm  very 
grateful  that  I  had  Mary  with  me,  because  not  only  did 
she  get  to  feel  the  experience  and  have  the  experience, 
but  she  opened  up  so  many  doors.   No  question  about  it. 
GOODWIN:   When  you  returned  to  this  country,  did  you 
lecture  about  your  trips  both  to  the  Soviet  Union  and 

SHEETS:  Yes,  I  did,  and  a  lot  of  my  closest  friends 
thought  that  I  had  really  turned  pink.  To  come  back 
and  say  things  enthusiastically  about  a  nation  that 


everybody's  been  talking  about  as  your  enemy  seems  to 
distract  a  lot  of  people,  and  it  seems  to  upset  a  lot 
of  people.   I  was  even  shocked  at  the  colleges  where  I 
had  been  teaching  for  so  long  and  other  places  where  I 
was  asked  to  speak.   I  must  have  spoken  thirty  or  forty 
times,  in  every  kind  of  situation,  when  I  came  back. 

On  our  return,  we  stopped  in  Washington  for  a 
debriefing,  and  I  made  a  great  many  people  very  unhappy 
about  the  things  that  I  told  them:   first  about  my 
briefing  and  how  wrong  it  was,  and  second  that  I  felt 
that  there  was  so  much  good  to  be  done  in  this  program 
if  they  particularly  would  have  people  take  their  wives 
with  them.   Anyway,  we  came  back,  and  to  my  surprise, 
about  two  months  later,  I  was  asked  to  come  back  to 
Washington  and  speak  to  all  the  members  in  the  State 
Department — which  really  was  a  surprise — in  a  very  large 
auditorium,  probably  about  2,500  people.   On  top  of  that, 
later  again,  I  was  asked  to  come  back  and  speak  to  the 
board  that  operated  that  whole  program.   They  gave  me 
three  hours  one  morning  of  their  regular  board  meeting 
to  discuss  all  of  the  ideas  that  I  had  about  their 
program.   There  were  State  Department  people  standing 
around  the  wall  looking  very  unhappy.   That's  the  way 
democracy  does  work  sometimes.   It's  awkward,  and  some- 
times it  isn't  easy,  because  both  of  those  experiences 
were  very  difficult  in  many  ways.   But  I  think  that  the 


reality  of  our  experience  in  Russia  was  something  that 
wasn't  average. 

Of  course,  we  ran  into  some  very  bitter  things.   For 
example,  every  time  we  were  taken  to  an  airport,  we  were 
given  the  VIP  treatment  and  put  in  a  special  waiting  room. 
We  quickly  discovered  that  in  these  waiting  rooms  there 
were  newspapers,  and  there  was  a  newspaper  that  seemed  to 
be  printed  in  English,  Italian,  French,  and  German  as  well 
as  Russian.   It  was  called  the  Moscow  News .   We  quickly 
discovered  that  this  was  a  digest  of  all  the  editorials 
and  major  stories  of  all  the  Soviet  news.   After  we  read 
the  first  one  or  two  in  English,  I  remember  Mary  became 
so  indignant  I  thought  she  was  going  to  hit  someone. 
She  said  that  this  was  the  dirtiest  bunch  of  stuff  she'd 
ever  read.   It  was  so  anti-American.   It  was  so  bitterly 
anti-free  world  and  so  full  of  flagrant  lies  and,  of 
course,  the  United  States  was  the  center  of  the  blame. 
From  then  on  we  collected  these  wherever  we  went.   We 
gathered  them  up,  and  they  were  very  valuable  to  me  when 
I  came  back  in  part  of  my  talk  to  show  how  their  people 
are  being  propagandized.   To  a  certain  degree,  I  felt 
that  our  people  were  being  propagandized  too.   And  I 
still  think  we  are. 

When  we  were  in  Armenia,  I  had  reached  the  point 
where  I  felt  we  had  to  cut  down  on  the  bulk  of  newsprint, 
so  I  spent  part  of  the  afternoon  cutting  out  parts  of  the 


things  that  I  wanted  to  keep,  and  left  the  rest  of  it, 
because  it  looked  kind  of  funny  for  me  to  be  carrying 
all  these  newspapers  around.   Anyway,  I  didn't  know  who 
was  going  to  open  my  briefcase.   What  possessed  me  I 
don't  know,  but  I  put  a  paper  clip  on  about  fifteen  or 
twenty  of  these  articles,  and  I  put  them  in  my  coat 
pocket.   I  don't  know  yet  why  I  did  it.   That  night  we 
went  to  a  beautiful  dinner  party.   The  artist  guild 
first  had  invited  me  to  a  stag  party  the  night  before 
we  were  to  leave  Armenia.   They  were  so  hospitable,  and 
they  said  that  they  wanted  to  give  me  a  party.   So  I 
said,  "Number  one,  I  must  have  an  interpreter,  and  number 
two,  my  wife  is  with  me  and  I  don't  really  want  to  go  to 
a  party  where  I  can't  take  her."   So  I  guess  it's  one  of 
the  first  parties  where  they  ever  broke  down  and  allowed 
two  women  to  come.   In  any  case,  it  was  a  beautiful 
party,  except  it  started  out  with  a  lot  of  very  heavy, 
hard-liquor  drinking  and  a  long,  long,  long,  long,  long 
dinner,  probably  three  hours  of  various  courses  coming 
along  with  wines.   Well,  eventually,  after  something  like 
five  or  six  hours,  the  man  who  was  obviously  the  head 
commissar--the  head  of  all  the  museums  and  the  head  of 
everything  that  had  to  do  with  art,  a  very  powerful 
political  man-,  a  devout  Communist,  of  course,  who 
right  opposite  me  at  this  long  table) — arose.   He  didn't 
even  wait  for  people  to  be  quiet.   I  mean,  he  didn't 


make  any  attempt  to  stop  them.   He  just  waited.   It  took 
that  whole  group  about  ten  minutes  to  simmer  down.   In 
other  words,  he  didn't  do  a  Rotary  Club  thing  and  bang 
a  glass  or  something.   He  just  stood  there  smiling. 
Finally,  when  it  did  simmer  down,  he  picked  up  a  glass, 
about  the  size  of  a  real  water  tumbler,  and  he  poured  it 
full  of  straight,  unadulterated,  high-powered  vodka.   He 
held  it  up  to  everybody,  and  then  he  set  it  down.   Then 
he  made  one  of  the  most  beautiful  talks  about  how  much 
they  enjoyed  having  us  there,  and  how  we  had  been  the 
first  Americans  who  had  come  since  Rockwell  Kent  came 
in  like  1925,  and  how  they  welcomed  the  thought  that 
when  we  went  back  to  the  United  States  we  would  really 
encourage  people  from  our  country  to  come  to  Armenia. 
They  had  gotten  a  very  different  feeling  about  Americans 
because  of  us,  and  we,  of  course,  had  made  very  clear  to 
them  how  much  we  had  enjoyed  them  during  our  stay.   It 
was  a  beautiful  talk.   Finally  he  finished,  and  then 
with  a  flourish  he  picks  his  glass  up  and  he  goes, 
"Glug,  glug,  glug,  glug."   He  takes  that  whole  thing 
down.   Well,  it  would  have  killed  an  ordinary  horse. 
He  set  it  down,  and  then  he  sat  down. 

Well,  I  knew  I  had  to  answer  eventually,  so  I  waited 
about  three  of  four  minutes.   I  got  up  and  I  followed  the 
same  procedure,  except  I  quickly  went  "Glug,  glug,"  and 
set  the  bottle  down  and  made  my  talk.   I  told  them  how 


great  we  felt  about  our  whole  experience  in  the  Soviet 
Union  and  Armenia  in  particular,  and  all  the  things  that 
we  would  say  when  we  got  back  about  our  feeling  about 
their  people.   I  sat  down,  and  there  was  as  much  clapping 
as  there  had  been  before.   I  thought,  "Well  now,  in  about 
a  minute,  we  can  go  to  bed" — because  we  were  going  to 
catch  a  plane  at  about  five  o'clock  in  the  morning. 

Well,  another  ten  minutes  went  by,  and  then  finally 
a  man  way  down  at  the  end  of  the  table  gets  up,  and  he 
makes  another  speech.   Then  I  make  another  little  speech. 
Each  time  I'm  pouring  one  drop  while  they're  pouring  these 
big  glugs.   About  ten  or  twelve  speeches  later,  I  knew  I 
wasn't  going  to  make  another  one.   There  was  just  no  way 
I  could  do  it.   I  had  too  much  to  drink,  too  much  to  eat, 
and  I  was  too  tired.   So  when  I  got  up  about  the  eleventh 
time  to  answer  a  toast,  I  picked  up  my  glass,  and  I  set 
it  down.   I  didn't  pour  anything  in  it.   I  had  our  per- 
fectly marvelous  interpreter,  who  didn't  mince  a  word. 
I  said,  "Gentlemen,  this  time  I'm  not  going  to  make  a 
toast.   I'm  going  to  ask  a  question.   We've  been  here 
now  for  five  or  so  weeks,  and  you  know  from  what  has 
been  exchanged  here  tonight  our  feeling  about  you  people 
and  the  people  we've  met  in  Russia  and  the  people  we 
expect  to  meet  where  we're  going.   You  know  that  it's 
sincere,  as  I  know  that  the  things  that  you  have  said 
are  sincere.   I  don't  question  them  at  all.   But,"  I 


said,  "how  can  you  reconcile  the  things  that  have  been 
said  here  tonight  with  this  incredible  package  of  stuff 
that  I've  cut  out  of  the  Moscow  News?"   I  pulled  this 
all  out  of  my  pocket.   I  just  felt  it,  I  guess,  is  what 
I  had  to  do.   I  said,  "Here  is  just  nothing  but  sheer 
hatred  against  my  country,  and  I've  selected  some  of  the 
meanest,  some  of  the  most  obviously  untrue  material  I 
could  find.   Now,  you  read  these,  I'm  sure,  in  Russian 
or  Armenian  or  whatever  language  you  read  in,  but  I 
can't  myself  reconcile  what's  happened  here  tonight  and 
what  I  read.   Now,  can  you?"   And  I  just  remained 
standing . 

There  was  about  three  minutes  of  dull  silence,  and 
finally  this  head  guy  right  across  the  table  stood  up 
slowly,  and  he  said,  "Mr.  Sheets,  I  don't  wonder  why 
you  ask  this  question."   He  said,  "Mr.  Sheets,  all  I 
can  tell  you  is  that  we  know  we  are  being  propagandized, 
but  we  don't  know  how  much  we  are  being  propagandized. 
This  is  our  problem,  because  we  have  no  way  of  judging 
it,  except  when  people  like  yourself  and  Mrs.  Sheets 
come  here.   These  are  the  only  experiences  that  give 
us  a  key  to  how  much  we're  being  propagandized.   Please 
accept  this  as  an  explanation,  and  please  do  not  let  it 
in  any  way  infect  your  feeling  about  us  as  people."  Wellj 
I  thought  it  took  more  courage  on  the  part  of  that  man  to 
do  that  than  probably  most  people  realized.   Although  I'm 


sure  he  couldn't  have  said  it  in  Russia,  I  think  even 
there  it  was  a  dangerous  thing  to  say  in  public. 

But  I  do  think  that  this  is  the  kind  of  good  that 
comes  from  this  kind  of  an  exchange.   They  begged  me  to 
encourage  people  to  come  to  Armenia,  and  not  to  just 
complain  about  the  bathrooms  and  food  but  to  exchange 
ideas.   Yet  the  government  makes  that  very  difficult  to 
do.   So  it  isn't  entirely  a  matter  of  the  tourist  not 
wishing  to  do  this.   It's  a  matter  of  the  opportunity 
to  do  it,  and  I  think  this  is  part  of  our  great  problem 
today  in  the  world:   to  somehow  get  to  people,  where  we 
have  these  frightening  differences,  and  to  try  and  get 
through.   I  really  think  it  was  a  terribly  important 
thing  to  have  done,  and  I'm  grateful  for  the  opportunity 
and  that  I  had  a  chance  to  do  it. 

GOODWIN:   I  understand,  to  shift  to  another  subject, 
that  you've  been  active  in  Republican  party  politics. 
SHEETS:   Not  really.   At  one  time  I  agreed  to  be  a  dele- 
gate to  the  Republican  party  [convention] ,  and  at  that 
time  the  man  that  I  had  agreed  to  be  a  delegate  for  was 
not  given  the  nomination,  so  I  never  became  a  delegate. 
As  a  matter  of  fact,  it  was  the  time  that  Nelson 
Rockefeller  ran  against  the  man  who  had  the  greatest 
loss  of  any  Republican,  from  Phoenix,  from  Arizona. 
GOODWIN:   Oh,  Goldwater. 
SHEETS:   Goldwater.   It  was  1964,  the  year  that  Goldwater 


won  the  nomination  over  Rockefeller.   So  I  never  really 
was  a  delegate. 

GOODWIN:   You  were  supporting  Rockefeller? 
SHEETS:   I  was  supporting  Rockefeller.   Not  because  of 
any  tremendous,  great  depth  of  feeling,  but  I  felt  that 
being  a  more  liberal  person,  I  could  support  him  more 
than  I  could  Goldwater.   Maybe  it  was  the  wrong  choice. 
The  country  decided  it  wasn't  the  wrong  choice,  but  in 
any  case  that  was  what  happened.   I've  never  been  active. 
I 've  never  given  great  amounts  of  money  at  any  time  to 
the  Republican  party.   I've  voted  probably  for  more 
Democratic  candidates  than  I've  voted  for  Republican 
candidates  over  the  years  that  I've  voted  all  of  my 
life,  because  I  vote  for  the  man.   But  I  do  have  con- 
victions about  some  of  the  basic  ideas  about  conservatism 
in  economics  that  I  believe  are  the  only  sensible  ways  to 
run  an  operation.   Yet  I  certainly  believe  in  the  social 
convictions  that  the  Democrats  have  appeared  to  stand 
for  more  often.   I  think  the  Republicans  have  very  often 
stood  for  these  things  but  haven't  been  very  adroit  at 
presenting  their  own  position  without  sounding  like  "me 
too."   I  don't  think  any  of  these  politicians  have 
really  hit  the  center  somewhere,  which  they  should. 
GOODWIN:   Let's  now  discuss  the  Virginia  Steele  Scott 
Foundation,  of  which  you're  a  trustee. 
SHEETS:   Well,  that's  a  very  real  responsibility  and 


something  I  have  become  thoroughly  involved  with  since 
the  death  of  Mrs.  Scott.   My  wife  and  I  have  been  friends 
of  Virginia  Scott  for  thirty-five  or  more  years,  with  her 
and  her  husband.   As  you  probably  know,  she  had  a  very 
serious  cancer  operation  about  eighteen  years  ago,  from 
which  she  had  a  difficult  time  recovering  her  whole  sense 
of  where  she  was.   They  operated  on  the  roof  of  her  mouth, 
and  she  became  almost  inarticulate.   She  could  not  talk 
easily.   Unfortunately,  being  a  very  sensitive  person, 
she  literally  locked  herself  in  a  shell.   She  wouldn't  go 
out  to  see  people.   All  of  us  who  had  been  very  close 
friends  were  just  simply  locked  out  of  her  existence. 
Tragically,  it  eventually  separated  her  from  her  husband. 
He  evidently  felt  he  couldn't  live  in  that  situation  any 
longer,  and  they  were  separated  and  divorced.   Then  after 
a  long  illness,  and  difficulties  because  of  many  problems 
which  I  won't  go  into,  she  recovered  to  the  degree  that 
she  became  tremendously  involved  again  in  collecting  and 
in  being  interested  in  supporting  art. 

For  years  before  her  illness  she  had  wanted  to  get 
a  new  museum  built  in  Pasadena.   So  when  she  regained  her 
health  and  she  had  taken  enough  therapy  so  she  could  speak 
well  enough  to  be  comfortable,  she  and  her  mother  were 
the  first  people  who  gave  the  money  toward  the  new  Pasadena 
Museum  [of  Modern  Art] .   They  gave  the  first  million  and 
a  half  dollars,  which  made  it  very  much  easier  to  get 


the  rest  of  the  money,  as  is  always  the  case.   After  a 
while  she  realized  that  the  people  who  had  really  taken 
over  the  reins  of  the  museum — and  I  mean  by  that  the 
local  people  who  not  only  were  pushing  a  certain  area  of 
art  but  had  real  control  of  it  through  their  board  of 
governors — she  felt  that  they  weren't  headed  at  all  in 
the  direction  that  she  had  always  been  interested  in  for 
a  museum.   As  you  know,  they  made  it  into  the  Pasadena 
Museum  of  Modern  Art,  which  they  ran  for  not  quite  four 
years  until  it  became  bankrupt. 

Well,  it  was  during  that  period  that  she  simply 
turned  her  back  on  the  museum  and  decided  to  build  her 
own  gallery.   She  made  the  mistake  of  building  this 
gallery  in  the  middle  of  a  private  residential  area  and 
on  a  private  street.   Well,  the  gallery  is  a  beautiful 
gallery.   It  was  designed  by  Thornton  Ladd  and  Associates 
with  her  as  the  guiding  spirit,  and  most  of  it  is  under- 
ground.  You  enter  the  gallery  from  an  elevator  in  the 
library  of  her  home  next  door.   It  goes  down,  and  then 
you  go  through  a  series  of  some  twelve  or  thirteen 
galleries  and  come  up  into  an  atrium  that  is  two  stories 
high.   It  goes  right  up  above  the  ground,  with  a  lovely- 
looking  house  built  at  ground  level  over  the  lower  gal- 
leries, which  provides  more  gallery  space  and  living 
quarters.   It's  a  beautiful,  beautiful  gallery.   It's 
on  about  four  acres  of  land  beautifully  situated  on  the 


knoll  of  a  hill.   There  is  lovely  landscaping. 

While  she  was  building  the  gallery,  she  asked  me  to 
become  a  member  of  her  foundation  board.   She  didn't  go 
into  any  detail  at  all  as  to  what  the  board  was  to  do  or 
what  the  foundation  was  to  accomplish  or  what  kind  of 
financing  would  back  the  foundation.   When  I  saw  her 
failing,  rather  rapidly,  during  the  last  six  or  so  months 
of  her  life,  I  insisted  that  she  call  a  board  meeting — 
which  she  had  never  done — to  delineate  her  sense  of  what 
the  board  should  do  if  anything  happened  to  her.   She  at 
first  was  unwilling  to  do  this.   She  said,  "I  want  the 
board  to  do  any  damn  thing  they  want  to  do.   I  don't  want 
to  put  any  strings  on  it."   I  said,  "Virginia,  that's  not 
fair.   You  know  that  I'm  the  only  one  on  the  board  that 
has  had  background  in  art,  and  that  to  simply  say  let 
the  board  do  what  they  want  to  do  without  the  board 
having  some  real  sense  of  your  philosophy  and  your  faith 
and  so  forth  is  wrong." 

Well,  finally,  to  cut  a  long  story  short,  I  helped 
her  write  an  agenda,  which  she  completely  approved  of, 
and  the  idea  was  to  major  in  American  art  and  to  have  as 
fine  a  collection  as  we  could  possibly  get  on  the  West 
Coast.   We  would  do  this  out  of  income  over  a  period  of 
time.   Then  very  abruptly  she  died,  just  one  day  before 
the  day  of  the  first  board  meeting  she  had  called.   For- 
tunately her  secretary  had  taken  down  everything  that  had 


been  discussed,  and  I  had  my  notes,  so  we  were  able  to 
have  the  board  meeting  with  some  sense  of  her  being  there 
and  her  agreement  on  what  we  were  planning. 

Well,  we  were  shocked  when  we  found  that  the  neighbors 
themselves  objected  strenuously  to  our  bringing  in  even 
the  same  numbers  of  people  that  Mrs.  Scott  would  have 
been  able  to  bring  in  quite  naturally  with  no  problems 
whatsoever  as  a  private  gallery.   But  the  fact  that  it 
became  a  foundation  gave  them  the  legal  right  to  inter- 
fere, which  they  certainly  did.   We  cannot  even  bring 
what  we  had  planned  at  the  outside,  a  hundred  people  a 
week,  in  small  groups,  by  invitation  and  by  appointment. 
So  we  turned  completely  toward  developing  our  collection 
with  the  idea  that,  eventually,  we  will  build  a  new 
museum,  a  new  gallery,  that  will  be  open  in  a  place 
where  the  public  can  come  quite  easily. 

At  first  we  thought  we  would  buy  out  of  income,  and 
it  turned  out  to  be  a  very  large  foundation,  large  to  me 
at  least,  some  $14  million,  including  the  property  and 
including  the  things  that  she  had  already  collected.   We 
found  that  there  were  two  reasons  why  we  should  perhaps 
not  try  to  do  this  out  of  income,  the  first  reason  being 
probably  the  most  valid:   that  American  art  has  become  a 
tremendously  important  thing  in  the  collecting  world 
today,  not  only  because  of  American  museums  and  private 
collectors  but  because  investors  from  Europe  are  buying 


it.   We've  been  shocked  by  the  fact  in  this  year  and  a 
half  that  I've  been  buying  paintings  to  discover  that 
the  Swiss  and  the  Germans  and  the  French  dealers,  as 
well  as  other  collectors,  have  been  buying,  in  an  amazing 
way,  the  top  things  that  they  can  get  their  hands  on. 
The  supply  of  modern  French  art,  and  the  supply  of  the 
old  masters,  between  being  frozen  by  their  various 
countries  and  the  tremendous  prices  of  modern  French, 
makes  it  impossible  to  go  into  those  areas.   The  few 
things  available  today  are  mostly  exchanged  back  and 
forth  among  top  private  collectors.   So  it's  strange 
that  some  of  the  same  people  who  have  been  collecting 
European  pictures  are  now  buying  the  great  American 
paintings  as  securities  and  investments.   So  because  of 
this  and  the  fact  that  inflation  will  outrun  you  in  terms 
of  the  cost  of  the  paintings  going  up  and  the  value  of 
the  dollar  falling,  we  felt  and  we  have  been  advised 
that  we  should  go  ahead  and  buy  out  of  capital,  which 
we're  doing  now.   At  this  point,  we  have  seventy-one 
great  American  paintings. 

GOODWIN:   And  your  goal  is  about  a  hundred? 
SHEETS:   We  hope  to  have  somewhere  between  the  seventy- 
one  and  a  hundred.   It  could  be  ninety  or  it  could  be 
ninety-five  or  it  could  be  a  hundred.   However,  what 
I'm  looking  for  and  what  the  board  has  agreed  definitely 
to  accomplish  is  to  find  the  great  paintings  that  are 


the  stepping-stones  in  the  development  of  what  you  could 
really  call  American  art.   We  are  starting  with  a  [John 
Singleton]  Copley,  that  is  an  American  Copley  painted 
before  he  went  to  England,  where  there's  a  certain  native 
feeling  that  didn't  occur  in  his  English  pictures.   The 
same  thing,  of  course,  with  Gilbert  Stuart,  Ralph  Earl, 
and  some  of  the  early  portrait  painters,  who  are  very 
unique  in  the  fact  that  there  is  a  kind  of  American 
quality  that  we  want  and  have  found.   Then  when  we  come 
on  down  through  the  whole  eighteenth  and  nineteenth  cen- 
turies, it  isn't  too  hard  to  select  those  who  are  the 
forerunners,  who  really  are  the  leaders  of  movements 
through  landscape  areas,  through  the  portrait  areas,  and 
the  genre  painters.   Fortunately  we've  been  able  to  get 
really  very,  very  fine,  high-quality  examples  of  the 
artists  that  we've  collected.   We're  still  missing  some 
very  important  ones. 

GOODWIN:   How  far  chronologically  will  the  collection  go? 
SHEETS:   Chronologically,  we  had  decided  roughly  to  stop 
somewhere  between  1920  and  1930.   In  one  or  two  instances, 
we've  come  beyond  that,  but  basically  that  is  the  area 
that  we're  trying  to  stay  within.   We  know  that  over  a 
period  of  time  in  the  future  there  will  be  enough  influ- 
ence of  this  foundation  and  the  groups  that  we  are  going 
to  build  as  supporting  groups  to  continue  to  collect  the 
contemporary  thing,  the  contemporary  qualities  that  can 


be  added  in  painting,  hopefully  in  sculpture,  and  cer- 
tainly in  the  graphics  to  eventually  have  a  very  large 
lending  library  from  which  universities,  colleges,  and 
even  museums  can  borrow  things.   We  expect  to  have  an 
ongoing  exhibition  program  in  our  new  galleries  or 
museum  where  we  can  show  three  or  four  major  exhibitions 
a  year  of  various  aspects  of  American  painting,  sometimes 
the  greatest  older  masters  and  at  times  very  contemporary 
things,  but  on  a  high  level,  so  that  whenever  anyone  goes 
to  the  gallery,  they'll  know  that  they're  going  to  see 
something  that  is  really  very  fine  and  worthwhile  and 
that  the  main  collection  will  never  become  static. 
That's  where  we  are,  and  I  think  it's  particularly 
exciting  because  we're  going  to  be  within,  I  think,  two 
years  of  building  our  museum.   We  have  several,  at  least 
three,  major  possibilities  where  we  can  go.   This  is 
being  worked  out  now,  the  final  decisions  and  all  of 
the  legal  matters  that  have  to  be  gone  through. 
GOODWIN:   You  want  to  become  affiliated  with  an  existing 

SHEETS:   Quite  possibly,  but  in  a  very  free  sense  at 
the  same  time,  which  is,  I  think,  possible  to  do. 
GOODWIN:   We  have  just  a  few  more  minutes  left  on  the 
tape  here,  but  let's  talk  about  one  other  aspect  of  your 
work,  which  is  related  to  the  Scott  Foundation.   At  one 
time  you  served  in  the  capacity  of  dealer,  I  believe. 


for  Bullock's  Department  Store. 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  was  not  exactly  a  dealer;  I  was  a 

GOODWIN:   A  purchaser. 

SHEETS:   Right.   I  went  to  Europe,  I've  forgotten  the 
year  now,  for  Bullock's  Department  Stores,  which  by  that 
time,  of  course,  belonged  to  the  Federated  Department 
Stores.   They  asked  me  to  buy  contemporary  art  or  perhaps 
back,  in  some  cases,  fifty,  seventy-five  years,  paintings 
from  England,  Scotland,  France,  Italy,  Switzerland, 
Germany,  for  a  special  traveling  show  that  would  open  in 
the  Pasadena  Bullock's  and  then  travel  through  a  series 
of  Bullock's  stores  throughout  Southern  California.   This 
would  be  shown  so  that  the  public  could  buy  things  that 
had  been  selected  for  quality  at  a  great  range  of  prices. 
I  think  they  were  as  low  as  probably  fifteen  or  twenty  or 
thirty  dollars,  in  the  case  of  certain  prints,  up  to 
paintings  that  were  worth  a  few  thousand  dollars.   It 
was  exciting  to  do  this  because  I  realized  that  it  wasn't 
the  first  time  that  it  had  been  done.   Vincent  Price  had 
worked  for  Sears  for  a  year  or  two  before  that  and  had 
done  a  very  good  job  raising  the  Sears  image  by  having 
such  shows.   Bullock's  felt  that  it  was  a  service,  more 
than  just  competition,  a  service  that  they  ought  to 
perform,  a  large  cut,  certainly,  above  their  gift  shop 
and  that  kind  of  thing.   I  really  had  a  great  deal  of 


fun  doing  this,  but  it  was  hard  work.   I  would  go  to  a 
city,  having  made  all  the  arrangements  ahead,  of  course. 
I  had  been  to  Europe  just  a  few  weeks  before  on  a  trip 
of  my  own,  and  I  had  made  arrangements  with  one  of  the 
top  London  galleries  to  have  a  large  group  of  artists 
whose  work  I  had  selected  by  name,  knowing  their  work, 
bring  their  things  into  this  collection  point,  where  I 
looked  at  them  and  bought  freely  from  the  things  that 
were  there. 

GOODWIN:   Kind  of  like  being  a  juror? 

SHEETS:   It's  just  exactly  like  being  a  juror,  you  bet. 
That's  why  I  said  purchaser  rather  than  a  dealer  because 
I  had  nothing  to  do  with  the  dealing  end  of  it — except 
perhaps  in  the  sense  that  I  did  price  everything  where  I 
thought  it  belonged.   I  didn't  have  someone  telling  me 
that  they  should  put  a  price  on  a  thing  that  I  didn't 
think  belonged.   I  bought  some  things  that  were  very 
reasonable  that  I  put  a  much  higher  price  on  because  I 
thought  they  were  worth  it.   Other  things  I  kept  very 
close  to  the  original  purchase  price  because,  although 
they  had  to  have  a  certain  markup,  it  wasn't  exorbitant. 
I  was  followed  along  by  one  of  the  Bullock's  buyers,  who 
paid  the  bills  and  saw  to  the  shipping  and  all  that  kind 
of  thing.   I  can't  remember  now,  but  it  seems  to  me  I 
bought  around  900  works  totally.   It  ranged  from  Rembrandt 
etchings  to  a  few  pretty  serious  paintings,  pretty 


important  paintings.   That  was  another  interesting 
experience  because  I  learned  a  great  deal  about  the 
public.   Things  that  I  thought  were  going  to  be  sure- 
fire, either  because  of  price  or  because  of  the  fact 
that  we  didn't  get  enough  real  art  collectors,  the  works 
just  didn't  sell  rapidly  enough.   There  were  many  people 
at  the  first  opening  days  of  each  of  these  shows.   But 
there  were  not  too  many  actually  buying.   It's  my  under- 
standing, although  I'm  not  sure  of  this,  that  after  the 
main  exhibitions  were  over,  they  gave  the  University  of 
California  at  Los  Angeles  a  choice  of  anything  they 
wanted  from  its  art  collection.   I  believe  a  great  many 
fine  things  went  to  UCLA,  but  I'm  not  sure  about  that. 
I  believe  the  company  made  a  large  profit  on  the  invest- 

GOODWIN:   In  any  event,  the  idea  didn't  catch  on  or  you 
weren't  interested  in  continuing? 

SHEETS:   The  Federated  Department  Stores  of  America 
bought  Bullock's  just  about  the  time  that  this  first 
project  was  launched.   Being  a  very  large,  national 
organization  and  having  a  much  lower  price  range  com- 
pared to  the  Bullock's  high  price  range,  they  didn't 
feel,  for  whatever  reason,  like  they  wanted  to  do  the 
second  show,  which  was  to  be  an  American  show.   Then, 
as  is  so  often  the  case,  the  two  top  people  who  were 
behind  this  at  Bullock's  died.   It  just  seemed  to 


TAPE  NUMBER:   XI   [video  session] 
FEBRUARY  5,  1977  and  FEBRUARY  9,  1977 

GOODWIN:   Today  is  February  5,  1977,  and  this  is  George 

Goodwin  at  the  home  of  Millard  and  Mary  Sheets  in  Mendocino 

County,  California.   Their  home  is  called  Barking  Rocks, 

and  it's  near  a  little  settlement  called  Anchor  Bay, 

California.   We're  about  150  miles  north  of  San  Francisco? 

SHEETS:   One  hundred  thirty-five. 

GOODWIN:   One  hundred  thirty-five.   You've  been  living 

here  since  1960? 

SHEETS:   That's  right. 

GOODWIN:   What  led  you  up  here,  away  from  Southern 


SHEETS:   Well,  we'd  always  wanted  a  place  on  the  sea.   In 

the  early  days  we  searched  every  part  of  Southern  California 

hoping  that  we  could  find  what  we  were  looking  for.   I'm 

afraid  in  those  days  everything  we  found  we  couldn't  afford, 

and  then  by  the  time  we  were  able  to  get  what  we  wanted, 

this  was  the  nearest  place  to  Southern  California.   We 

found  it  on  a  trip  one  time  as  we  turned  a  corner  and 

saw  these  islands  and  decided  this  was  where  we  wanted 

to  live. 

GOODWIN:   About  how  much  property  do  you  have  here? 

SHEETS:   There's  seven  acres  where  the  house  is  located, 

and  then  we  have  a  mile  and  a  qraarter  of  coastline,  which 


starts  a  quarter  of  a  mile  away,  that  we  bought  as  an 
investment  and  a  place  to  enjoy.   It's  a  very  famous 
point  called  Haven's  Neck. 

GOODWIN:   Here  we  are  in  the  main  gallery  of  Barking 
Rocks,  where  we're  seeing  a  large  number  and  a  great 
variety  of  art  objects,  but  primarily  sculpture.   We're 
starting  at  the  south  end,  I  believe,  and  moving  north- 
ward.  We  just  looked  at  an  example  of  Roman  art,  I 

SHEETS:   That's  right.   That  was  a  piece  of  sculpture 
that  I  got  in  Turkey  many,  many  years  ago,  and  that  was 
a  Greek  icon  we  just  passed.   The  reason  there  are  so 
many  different  kinds  of  objects  in  this  gallery  is  the 
fact  that  I  like  art,  period.   I  have  enjoyed  traveling 
immensely  and  I  collect  as  I  go.   This  is  to  me  a  very 
exciting  twelfth-century  German  Gothic  sculpture  that 
I've  had  for  a  long  time.   It's  something  that  has 
lived  very  well.   The  color  is  beautiful,  I  think,  in 
the  patina  of  this  figure.   In  placing  it  next  to  the 
figure  we're  going  to  see,  carved  by  a  Tarascan  Indian 
in  probably  the  eighteenth  century  near  Lake  Patzcuaro, 
you  get  an  interesting  expression,  I  think,  of  great 
feeling  in  both  instances  of  the  spirit  of  the  Christo, 
but  done  in  a  totally  different  manner:   one  in  a  very 


refined  manner,  very  sophisticated  carving,  the  other 
in  very  primitive  carving.   That's  a  little  penitente 
figure  from  New  Mexico.   As  we've  discussed  before, 
George,  a  collector  never  owns  anything.   You  pay  well 
for  the  privilege  of  having  nice  people  around  to  talk 
to,  but  of  course  they  outlast  you,  which,  I  think,  is 
the  most  exciting  thing  about  collecting.   You've  had  a 
hand  in  protecting  beautiful  things  for  a  period  of  time, 
I  feel  no  sense  of  possession.   I  just  enjoy  so  much 
meeting  some  of  the  great  minds  of  all  time  as  I  look 
at  various  kinds  of  art. 

GOODWIN:   Now,  here's  a  rare  painting.   It's  a  Millard 
Sheets.   [Arizona  Mission]   [laughter] 
SHEETS:   Well,  this  is  here  only  for  one  reason.   A 
friend  of  mine  knew  that  I  liked  this  painting,  repre- 
senting a  certain  period  of  about  almost  thirty  years 
ago.   When  he  had  an  opportunity  to  purchase  it,  he 
bought  it  and  gave  it  to  me  as  a  present.   I  feel 
obligated  to  hang  it  in  the  gallery.   Otherwise,  I'm 
sure  it  wouldn't  be  there. 

GOODWIN:   We're  now  beginning  to  enter  the  particular 
strength  of  the  collection,  which  is  obviously  pre- 
Columbian  art.   How  long  have  you  been  active  in  the 
pre-Columbian  field? 

SHEETS:   About  forty  years.   Again  on  this  table,  which 
we're  passing  rapidly,  you  have  things  that  go  back  to 


the  Tlatilco  period.   You  have  Colima.   There  is  a 
Nayarit  figure,  and  the  pot  in  the  background  coining 
up  is  from  the  Monte  Alban  period  of  the  Zapotecs  and 
the  Mixtecs. 

GOODWIN:   You've  explained  that  many  of  these  pieces 
were  acquired  in  Mexico. 

SHEETS:   Yes.   In  the  old  days,  Mexico  didn't  really  seem 
to  care  too  much  about  people  bringing  things  out.   I 
bought  a  great  many  things  in  Mexico.   That  hasn't  been 
true  now  for  a  great  many  years.   We  have  an  agreement 
between  the  Mexican  government  and  the  United  States 
government  to  send  important  things  back  when  they're 
found  here.   It's  a  reciprocal  agreement  that  has  to  be 
respected.   This  is  an  interesting  figure,  a  Chinesco, 
very  unusual  both  in  size  and  in  pose.   It's  a  figure 
that  I've  enjoyed  a  great  deal. 

GOODWIN:   Are  you  a  very  systematic  collector  or  do  you 
collect  what  appeals  to  you  at  the  moment? 
SHEETS:   No,  I  collect  what  appeals.   I  don't  think  I'm 
systematic  at  all.   Of  course,  in  collecting  you  have 
to  collect  when  you  have  an  opportunity  because  the 
pieces  rarely  remain.   You  have  to  make  up  your  mind. 
This  is  a  nice  stone  head  from  the  Valley  of  Mexico  that 
I've  always  liked.   I  learned  a  long  time  ago  that  if 
you  really  want  something  and  you  feel  that  you  can 
afford  it,  the  thing  to  do  is  to  get  it,  because  if 


you  pass  it  by  it's  gone  for  all  time.   This  is  one  of 
my  pet  pieces.   This  is  a  marvelous  Khymer  figure  from 
Cambodia,  and  it's  in  such  wonderful  state,  even  though 
the  arms  and  lower  legs  are  gone  and  one  ear.   The  rest 
of  the  head  is  absolutely  perfect,  never  been  damaged, 
and  it's  a  beautiful  piece.   Of  course  the  head  was 
obviously  knocked  off  and  it's  simply  sitting  there. 
GOODWIN:   Was  this  acquired,  by  the  way,  when  you  were 
in  that  part  of  the  world? 

SHEETS:   I  bought  that  in  Thailand  from  a  marvelous  woman 
who  is  one  of  the  great  dealers  and  collectors  in  Thailand, 
who  spent  a  tremendous  amount  of  time  in  Cambodia.   There's 
just  a  fraction  of  a  very  large  fresco.   It's  a  detail, 
but  I  love  the  painting  in  it.   This  is  something  I  don't 
imagine  they  would  allow  out  of  Italy  today.   I  bought  it 
probably  twenty-five  or  more  years  ago.   It's  a  triptych 
in  the  school  of  Vivarini,  and  the  central  figure  and  the 
figure  on  the  right  have  been,  I  think,  relatively  un- 
touched.  The  figure  on  the  left  was  painted  over  some, 
but  it's  a  very  decorative  piece  in  its  original  frame. 
There's  a  whole  family  of  Chinese©  figures,  as  you  see, 
from  the  big  papa  at  the  back,  coming  down  to  baby.   Now 
we're  getting  some  other  figures  in  the  foreground,  which 
are  on  another  table,  but  that's  an  unusual  figure.   It's 
flat  as  a  little  piece  of  pie  crust,  but  it  has  a  beautiful 
feeling  in  it,  a  funny  little  figure  sitting  on  the  lap. 


GOODWIN:   Is  the  arrangement  of  the  objects  in  the 
collection  essentially  stationary,  or  do  you  like  to 
shove  things  atound? 

SHEETS:   No,  we  move  them  around,  but  I  like  things  out 
in  the  middle  so  you  can  walk  around  them.   This  is  a 
nice,  very  good  Nayarit  figure  and  that's  a  very  archiac 
Colima  dog  that  is  admired  by  people  who  know  Colima. 
It's  very  early,  in  this  curled-up  position  with  the 
strange  little  leg  forms,  but  it's  a  beautiful  pot. 
It's  never  been  broken  at  all. 

GOODWIN:   This  is  a  very  large  space.   Do  you  remember 
the  dimensions? 

SHEETS:   The  gallery  is  about  seventy-five  feet  long  and 
twenty-six  feet  wide  and  fifteen  feet  high.   I  built  it 
as  big  as  the  number  of  beams  that  I  had,  which  were  hand- 
adzed  beams,  and  they  came  from  a  hundred -year-old  bridge 
that  was  built  up  here  in  Mendocino  County.   A  friend  of 
mine  bought  the  bridge,  and  then  I  bought  the  timbers 
from  him,  and  he  erected  them  in  the  most  astonishing  way. 
I've  never  seen  anybody  put  beams  up  like  he  did.   They're 
enormous  and  very  heavy. 

GOODWIN:   Was  the  gallery  built  shortly  after  the  house? 
SHEETS:   No,  I  didn't  build  the  gallery  until  about  four 
years  ago.   We  put  it  off  mainly  because  we  weren't  sure 
what  we  were  going  to  do  with  the  collection,  but  our 
kids  seemed  to  want  to  have  them  here  in  one  place,  so 


we  built  the  gallery  really  for  that  reason.   Those  are 
just  fragments  of  Greek  Tanagras,  but  they're  lovely 
little  pieces.   In  this  particular  case,  we  have  a  great 
many  objects  representing  a  great  many  different  cultures 
in  Burma,  Siam,  and  little  bronze  figures  from  Tibet. 
GOODWIN:   You've  commented  that  the  objects  seem  to 
speak  to  one  another. 

SHEETS:   I  think  this  is  true.   I  think  that  good  works, 
regardless  of  what  culture  they  come  from,  speak  to  one 
another,  like  this  Egyptian  figure.   It's  a  wooden  figure 
from  the  great  period  of  Ikhnaton,  and  I  like  it  very 
much.   I  think  he  speaks  to  these  Maya  and  other  figures 
that  are  in  the  case.   There  seems  to  be  a  very  happy 
relationship.   I  don't  find  any  quarrel  at  all  between 
them.   He's  really  sitting  there  very  quietly  while  this 
Mussolini-like  figure  from  the  Island  of  Jaina  is  pontifi- 
cating, and  these  two  men,  warriors,  I  suppose,  are 
standing  by.   But  they  are  rare  gems,  these  little 
figures,  today.   Practically  nothing  comes  out  of  Mexico 
today  representing  this  period.   They  had  wonderful  ideas 
about  headdresses  that,  I  think,  are  very  decorative  and 
very  exciting.   But  how  they  could  capture  in  about  eight 
or  ten  inches  of  height  the  amount  of  dignity  I  just 
think  is  remarkable.   Look  at  this  old  gentleman  with 
his  cloak  and  his  shield.   The  poses  are  somewhat  similar 
from  figure  to  figure,  but  the  modeling  of  course  varies 


a  great  deal,  and  very  often  the  color.   Now,  these  two 
ladies  are  very,  very  rare,  both  in  quality  and  in  size. 
Well,  I've  got  a  man  between  them.   I'd  forgotten  about 
him.   They  are  extremely  well  sculpted,  and  this  one  on 
the  right  has  the  most  beautiful  blue,  which  is  very 
sought  after  and  very,  very  rare. 
GOODWIN:   Do  you  ever  sketch  your  pieces? 
SHEETS:   No,  I  never  have  really.   I  just  loved  seeing 
the  resemblance  between  these  figures  and  the  people 
that  live  in  Mexico  and  in  Guatemala  today.   It's 
astounding  how  many  of  the  poses  and  the  way  they  sit 
and  look  are  just  alike.   Of  course  that's  a  little, 
early  Olmecan  piece,  that  small  figure,  the  fat  man  on 
the  left.   These  Tlatilco  figures  with  the  large  hips 
are  very,  very  rare,  and  they  are  about  150  to  250  B.C. 
That  pair  of  quite  realistic  figures,  if  you  could  see 
the  whole  figure,  they're  extremely  well  modeled.   They 
came  from  the  Chupicuaro  area.   This  is  a  mask  from 
Mexico  in  this  transparent  stone.   I've  forgotten  what 
you  call  this  transparent  stone. 
GOODWIN:   Alabaster. 

SHEETS:   Alabaster,  of  course.   This  little  figure  in 
the  foreground  is  Chinesco.   Then  we  have  these  two 
strange  guys  at  the  back  and  a  whole  assorted  group  of 
different  periods.   Those  are  nearly  all  early  Colima 


GOODWIN:   It's  so  refreshing  for  me  to  see  the  figures 
arranged  in  this  informal  manner,  where  they're  not 
boxed  into  tight  specialties. 

SHEETS:   Well,  I  like  mixing  them  up  obviously.   This  is 
a  beautiful  piece,  an  Olmecan  baby.   The  Metropolitan 
[Museum]  borrowed  this  for  their  show  celebrating  their 
one-hundredth  anniversary  ["Before  Cortez"].   This  is 
another  Olmecan  crawling  baby.   Those  figures  are  dated 
between  8  50  and  1100  B.C.  and  they're  among  the  oldest 
things,  except  for  the  Egyptian  piece  that  I  showed  you. 
But  these  are  both  very  rare  figures,  these  Olmecan 
babies.   That's  a  pure  Olmecan  mouth,  but  see  how  Oriental 
it  is?   It  has  a  very  strong  Chinese  feeling.   You  could 
almost  swear  it  was  Chinese.   This  was  an  old  Moroccan 
door  that  I  had  had  for  years  and  years  and  didn't  know 
what  to  do  with  it,  so  I  decided  we'd  use  it  in  one  side 
of  a  cabinet.   I  have  a  great  friend,  Frank  Watrons,  up 
here  who  makes  beautiful  furniture.   He  put  it  together 
for  me.   It  makes  a  good  base  for  some  more  figures. 
As  you  see,  those  are  Tarascan  dogs. 

GOODWIN:   We're  now  standing  in  the  north  end  of  the 
gallery  and  looking  south  towards  the  entrance. 
SHEETS:   That's  right.   When  I  built  the  gallery,  I  had 
an  overhang  from  the  guest  house,  which  has  a  concrete 
roof,  so  it  gave  me  a  chance  to  build  a  series  of  niches. 
This  door  goes  on  through  to  a  storehouse.   But  these 


niches  made  very  nice  places  to  arrange  figures.   I've 
used  different  colors  in  them  to  make  them  more  inter- 
esting.  This  figure  is  Burmese.   The  heads  are  Cambodian, 
and  there  is  a  contemporary  pot  in  the  foreground  by 
Beatrice  Wood. 

GOODWIN:   Do  you  ever  have  time  to  sit  quietly  in  the 

SHEETS:   I  do.   I  like  to  go  out  here,  and  I  like  to  read 
out  here  and  then  look  around  while  I'm  reading.   Of 
course,  I  love  to  go  out  to  show  things  to  people.   I 
always  feel  refreshed  because  there's  a  kind  of  security. 
It's  not  the  possession,  but  just  in  being  around  the 
kinds  of  minds  that  produced  these  things,  minds  that 
were  able  to  put  into  stone  or  into  clay  or  whatever  the 
form,  whatever  the  material  used,  that  were  able  to 
inculcate  as  much  spirit  and  timeless  quality  in  the 
works,  is  a  challenge  to  any  artist.   This  is  a  Gothic 
polychromed  stone  Madonna  and  Child  from  south  Germany. 
Here's  a  Chinese  Tang  camel  and  Tang  vase.   That's  an 
early  Han  horse.   Before  the  Arab  horse  was  introduced, 
which  gave  the  arch  to  the  neck,  the  Chinese  horses  had 
these  little  short  necks  and  big  hammerheads,  as  we  call 
them.   They  look  mean,  and  they  must  have  been  mean. 
GOODWIN:   Here's  something  a  little  more  contemporary. 
SHEETS:   This  is  a  sketch  done  in  bronze,  by  Carl  Milles. 
It's  part  of  a  group  for  a  large  garden  that  he  executed. 


I  believe  in  Maryland,  called  the  Garden  of  Memories. 
He  was  given  the  commission,  the  last  major  commission 
he  had,  and  he  used  for  the  figures  some  100  figures  of 
friends  of  his  who  had  died.   Those  girls  were  a  couple 
of  young  sisters  who  had  died  in  an  automobile  accident 
when  they  were  about  eighteen.   I  like  nature  in  every 
form,  obviously,  and  these  shells  are  always  fascinating 
to  me  because  of  the  incredible,  almost  infinite,  variety 
of  form  and  shape  and  color.   And  yet  they  have  such  a 
structural  sense  that  is  just  fundamental  to  the  idea 
of  a  shell,  I  guess. 

GOODWIN:   You  also  have  a  case  of  mounted  butterflies, 
which  we  are  unable  to  see. 
SHEETS:   Yes. 

GOODWIN:   It's  amazing  to  me  that  most  of  this  work  is 
anonymous.   We  don't  know  who  the  individual  artists  and 
craftsmen  were,  but  it  really  doesn't  matter. 
SHEETS:   It  really  doesn't,  and  I  think  that  that's  the 
thing  that  you  get  from  such  a  collection.   It's  like 
looking  at  a  Gothic  cathedral:   you  don't  know  who 
carved  all  those  fantastic  figures.   You  perhaps  were 
more  apt  to  know  who  painted  the  triptychs  than  you 
would  the  people  who  carved,  but  to  think  it  went  on 
for  over  a  hundred*  years  sometimes  in  one  building, 
the  work  itself  carried  on  over  the  years,  it's  very 


GOODWIN:   It  might  be  something  that  comtemporary  artists 
could  learn  about  being  modest. 

SHEETS:   I  think  our  ego  trips  are  pretty  small  by  com- 
parison to  the  kind  of  spirit  that  was  inculcated  in  some 
of  these  pieces.   This  is  an  extremely  unusual  stone  piece 
from  India.   It  came  from  a  temple  somewhere  in  the  desert 
east  of  Karachi,  the  Rajputan.   There's  only  one  other 
figure  that  I  know  of  in  the  United  States  that  came  from 
that  same  temple.   Dick  Fuller  found  it  when  he  was  in 
India  and  it's  in  the  Seattle  museum.   These  are  the  only 
two  pieces,  and  they  obviously  came  from  the  same  place. 

These  matrimonial  pieces  are  very  good.   They  call 
them  matrimonial  because  they're  married  couples.   These 
are  archaic  Nayarit  and  very,  very  good  ones.   That's  a 
lovely  little  dwarf  fron  Colima,  along  with  an  armadillo. 
This  character  is  playing  on  a  rasp  some  kind  of  rhythm 
and  music. 

GOODWIN:   That  looks  like  a  Japanese  screen. 
SHEETS:   That  is  a  nice  screen  in  the  back.   It's  seven- 
teenth century. 

GOODWIN:   There  are  several  screens  that  run  the  length 
of  that  east  wall. 

SHEETS:   I  think  they  make  a  good  background,  and  I  like 
them  just  for  themselves.   This  is  a  marvelous  little 
Chinesco  figure.   They're  very  difficult  to  find  of 
that  quality.   That's  a  pair  of  figures  from  the  Guadalajara 


area.   They  call  them  Jalisco,  and  it's  a  different  style 
entirely.   That's  another  Colima  dog.   This  is  an  extra- 
ordinary figure  from  the  east  coast,  the  Vera  Cruz  region. 
It's  sometimes  called  Juastecan,  and  I  am  very  fond  of 
this  figure.   He's  a  pretty  strong  character.   It's  a 
large  figure,  too,  as  compared  to  so  many  of  the  ceramic 
figures  that  you  find. 

GOODWIN:   It's  a  great  thrill  for  me  to  see  this  collection 
as  well  as  your  entire  home  here. 

SHEETS:   Well,  it's  great  for  me  to  have  you  here  to  see 
it,  George. 

GOODWIN:   I'm  in  the  living  room  of  the  main  house  at 
Barking  Rocks  with  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Sheets.   This  is  the 
first  opportunity  we've  had  to  meet  and  see  Mrs.  Sheets. 
Although  it  may  sound  like  a  chauvinist  question,  I  do 
want  to  hear  about  the  large  family  which  has  played  a 
big  part  in  your  life.   You  have  several  children  and 

MRS.  SHEETS:   Yes,  I  don't  think  it's  a  bit  chauvinist 
because,  after  all,  what  is  more  wonderful  than  having 
a  lot  of  children?   Yes,  we  have  four  children,  and  the 
oldest  is  Millard  Owen  Sheets,  Jr.   We  always  called  him 
Owen  to  save  confusion.   He  was  born  a  year  after  we  were 
married.   He's  now  living  in  Hawaii,  where  he ' s  a  sugar 


technician  with  one  of  the  big  plantations.   So  he  and 

his  family  are  living  a  real  plantation  life.   He  married 

a  girl  from  Kauai,  and  they  started  off  our  population 

explosion  with  five  children. 

GOODWIN:   You  have  a  son  who's  an  artist,  too. 

MRS.  SHEETS:   That's  our  youngest  son,  Tony.   Then  we 

have  a  daughter,  Caroline,  then  a  son,  David,  then  Tony. 

Each  one  has  added  to  the  confusion  and  the  celebration 

by  having  families:   Caroline  has  three,  David  two,  and 

Tony  two--well,  Tony  three  now.   We  have  a  couple  of 

step-grandchildren,  who  are  very  dear  to  our  hearts. 

So  that  makes  fifteen.   They're  all  doing  exciting  things 

and  living  very  meaningful  lives,  which  is  great.   So, 

what  greater  reward? 

GOODWIN:   Good.   Another  part  of  your  extended  family  is 

not  human  but  animal,  because  the  Sheetses  have  been  horse 

enthusiasts  for  many,  many  years. 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I  think  that's  like  collecting.   It's  a 

disease,  but  a  very  happy  one.   I  grew  up  with  horses, 

and  we  always  had  horses  when  the  boys  were  growing  up. 

They  rode  from  our  house  to  Webb  School,  where  the  boys 

went  to  school.   Then  I've  always,  on  the  side,  had  one 

or  two  racehorses;  and  now  I'm  involved  with  friends  of 

mine,  and  we  have  several.   That's  a  great  deal  of 

pleasure  for  me  to  follow  the  breeding  carefully  and 

see  these  youngsters  come  along  and  race.   I  get  a 


great  big  kick  out  of  it.   Of  course  I've  always  loved 

animals.   We've  always  had  birds  and  cats  and  dogs  and 

every  other  kind  of  animal,  too. 

MRS.  SHEETS:   Also  goats  and  sheep. 

SHEETS:   A  few  wild  ones,  very  exciting. 

GOODWIN:   This  room,  of  course,  is  only  one  of  the 

structures  at  Barking  Rocks,  and  of  course  Mr.  Sheets 

designed  them  all.   We  have  a  main  house,  a  guest  house, 

a  gallery,  a  studio,  an  aviary,  and  several  other 


SHEETS:   It  looks  a  little  like  a  penal  institution. 


GOODWIN:   Tell  us  a  little  about  the  design  of  this  room. 

SHEETS:   Of  course  we  were  very  excited  about  the  special 

view  that  you  get  out  the  window,  and  that's  why  we  have 

large  windows  with  this  unusual  fish-rock-island  combination 

out  in  front  of  us.   We  see,  of  course,  the  incredible  life 

on  the  island.   At  times  we  have  as  many  as  3,000  sea  lions, 

and  the  whales  migrating  back  and  forth  from  Alaska  to 

Mexico  come  in  very  close,  sometimes  inside  the  bay. 

Then  we  have  enormous  migrations  of  birds.   We  felt  that 

we  wanted  a  really  open  view  on  that  side.   On  the  other 

hand,  the  rest  of  the  house  is  fairly  solid.   We  wanted 

to  keep  it  on  the  ground  and  make  it  feel  like  it  belonged 

here,  so  we  used  stone  and  wood,  which  has  pretty  well 

blended  right  into  the  background  of  the  countryside. 


When  we  built,  these  little  pines  were  quite  small.   Now 
they're  surrounding  the  house,  and  it's  been  very  nice 
to  see  it  settle  in.   We  like  the  feeling  of  the  stone, 
and  there's  so  little  to  do  except  sometimes  a  little 
oiling  of  the  wood--not  much  in  the  way  of  upkeep  from 
the  outside.   And  it's  a  pleasant  house  to  live  in. 
GOODWIN:   It's  more  than  that:   it's  fascinating.   We're 
now  ready  to  take  a  walk  over  to  the  studio  and  see  how 
Mr.  Sheets  works  in  between  his  numerous  projects. 

GOODWIN:   Today  is  February  9,  1977,  and  I'm  with  Millard 
Sheets  at  the  collection  of  the  Virginia  Steele  Scott 
Foundation  in  Pasadena.   Today  we're  going  to  try  and 
give  an  overview  of  Mr.  Sheets 's  work  as  a  painter,  but 
obviously  this  is  an  extremely  difficult  task,  because 
he's  painted  well  over  3,000  paintings,  and  we're  going 
to  look  at  only  a  handful,  only  about  a  dozen.   Of  course 
we're  limited  by  the  number  of  paintings  here,  but  the 
Scott  Foundation  probably  has  the  largest  number  of  Mr. 
Sheets 's  paintings  of  any  collection.   There  are  about 
sixty  here,  I  understand.   Currently  we're  looking  at 
some  of  the  earliest  paintings  by  Millard  Sheets  in  the 
Scott  collection.   These  three  paintings  date  from  the 
thirties,  I  believe. 
SHEETS:   This  painting  [Abandoned],  I  believe,  is  1932, 


if  I  remember  correctly  [actually  1934] .   It  was  painted 
for  the  Carnegie  International.   I  was  invited,  fortu- 
nately, all  the  years  from  1930  onward  as  long  as  the 
shows  were  held,  and  I  always  looked  forward  to  painting 
something  special  for  Carnegie,  and  this  is  one  of  many 
paintings  that  I  did  for  it.   I  was  lucky  to  be  invited 
because  the  last  time  they  had  an  exhibition  at  Carnegie 
that  was  subject  to  a  jury  was  in  1930,  and  it  became 
something  of  a  scandal.   Only  fifteen  pictures  out  of 
several  thousand  were  accepted.   Being  the  only  one  west 
of  the  Mississippi  River  that  was  accepted,  my  painting 
did  get  probably  more  attention  than  it  deserved,  but 
they  did  invite  me  from  that  point  on. 

GOODWIN:   How  would  you  characterize  the  style  of  this 
painting,  compared  to  some  of  your  later  work? 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  suppose  it's  more  truly  representational 
in  one  sense  than  some  of  the  things  that  I  do  today,  but 
this  is  where  I  grew  up.   This  is  in  the  Chino  hills  area, 
and  it's  an  old  farm  that  was  abandoned  during  the 
Depression.   It  was  a  very  moody  place,  and  I  was  very 
much  interested  in  dark  and  light  as  a  design  factor. 
I  guess  that's  about  all  I  could  say  as  far  as  any 
special  style.   It  grew  right  out  of  my  own  background. 
GOODWIN:   It's  a  very  strong  picture,  I  would  say. 
SHEETS:   I  like  the  feeling  of  it,  and  it  holds  up  pretty 
well  over  the  years.   Of  course  it  would  be  fun  to  repaint 


GOODWIN:   Right.   This  is  an  oil  painting,  but  on  either 
side  we  have  two  watercolors. 

SHEETS:   Yes,  painted  in  the  same  area  as  the  watercolor 
that  you're  standing  by  [River  Bottom] ,  that  is,  down  in 
the  same  bottom  land  of  Chino.   I  did  spend  a  tremendous 
amount  of  time  there.   Though  I  was  teaching  at  Scripps, 
I  spent  many  weekends  down  in  that  area  painting.   I 
painted  every  kind  of  light  and  mood,  and  I  think  I  learned 
more  about  painting  in  that  period  from  going  out  and 
working  directly  from  nature  steadily  every  week  than 
perhaps  I  ever  learned  at  any  other  time.   But  it's, 
again  a  sort  of  moody  thing  down  in  the  half -swamp,  half- 
bottom  land,  where  they  had  a  few  cattle  in  pasture. 
It's  a  very  early  one  [1937]. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  take  a  look  at  this  other  watercolor 
[The  House  on  the  Hill]  . 

SHEETS:   Well,  this  was  a  painting  of  the  same  house 
actually  that  was  in  that  oil  painting.   It  was  done  on 
the  scene  as  just  a  shot  taken  in  place,  whereas  the 
other  was  a  composition.   I  moved  buildings  around  that 
had  been  in  other  parts  of  the  area  when  I  made  the 
larger  painting.   But  this  was  about  the  same  period. 
GOODWIN:   Do  you  have  favorite  subjects  or  motifs? 
SHEETS:   Well,  of  course  I  love  everything,  really.   I 
love  landscape,  the  sea;  I  like  people;  I  like  particu- 
larly things  with  people  and/or  horses,  which  I  love 


very  much  because  I've  raised  them  all  my  life  and  I've 
been  around  them  all  my  life.   I'm  afraid  they  crop  into 
more  pictures  than  the  average  person  would  use  a  horse, 
but  it's  because  I  like  them  very  much.   Also  I  like 
landscape,  and  I  like  old  ranches  and  all  things  that 
have  character.   Although  I'm  not  so  much  interested  in 
the  surface  of  every  shingle  as  some  painters  are,  I'm 
interested  in  the  mood  that  you  find  in  these  places. 
GOODWIN:   Let's  look  now  at  some  later  work  in  another 
part  of  the  gallery. 

We've  actually  jumped  forward  a  great  distance  in 
time.   We're  looking  at  three  paintings  that  date  from 
the  sixties,  I  believe.   We  have  two  watercolors  on 
either  side  of  the  larger  painting,  but  the  larger 
painting  is  an  acrylic.   It's  evident  to  me,  especially 
in  color,  that  this  painting  in  particular  [Familia 
Equus  in  Elysian  Field,  1967]  represents  a  dramatic 
departure  from  the  paintings  we  just  viewed. 
SHEETS:   Yes,  this  is  about  the  period  when  I  really 
became  tremendously  interested  in  color,  apart  from 
dark  and  light.   You  have  to,  of  course,  have  dark  and 
light  in  any  painting,  but  as  far  as  my  new  exciting 
interest  in  color,  it  developed  about  this  period.   I 
did  a  whole  series  of  acrylics,  as  well  as  watercolors 


and  oils,  that  sent  me  into  a  whole  new  period  of 
painting . 

GOODWIN:   How  did  that  come  about,  Mr.  Sheets? 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  think  it  came  about  because  I  realized 
after  painting  for  a  very  long  time  that  I  was  always 
stopped  at  a  certain  point.   I  never  seemed  to  be  able  to 
go  beyond  a  certain  gate.   I  tried  to  analyze  what  it  was 
that  made  me  keep  everything  high-keyed  to  a  degree, 
although  those  early  pictures  were  low-key.   Most  of 
the  painting  preceding  this  was  fairly  high-keyed,  and 
I  think  it  was  a  precious  attitude  toward  watercolor 
painting  particularly  that  developed  this  within  me. 
As  I  recognized  the  fact  that  the  world  is  almost  infinite 
in  its  variety  and  certainly  in  its  moods,  I  found  that 
you  can  put  your  picture  high  or  low  in  dark  and  light, 
or  you  can  give  it  brilliant  and  intense  color,  or  you 
can  have  muted  color,  or  you  can  have  a  combination  of 
both,  I  realized  that  I'd  been  probably  following  a  kind 
of  routine,  if  not  habit,  as  an  approach  to  problems.   So 
it  was  about  this  time  that  I  decided  that  I  would  try  to 
get  as  much  color  as  I  could  against  muted  color.   I 
think  the  reason  that  this  seems  to  have  a  lot  of  color 
is  that  there  are  enough  greys  and  muted  colors  in  it  to 
give  you  a  sense  of  color.   If  you  use  raw  colors  all 
over,  they  fight  each  other.   But  if  you  have  enough 
contrast  between  greyed  and  muted  color  against  real 


color,  you  get  a  greater  sense  of  color.   There's  nothing 
particularly  bright  about  this  picture.   It  does  have 
some  yellows  and  some  bright  reds,  but  the  value  scheme 
is  very  close,  actually.   There's  no  real  dark  in  it, 
and  there's  no  real  light  in  it.   It's  a  muted  picture, 
although  it  does  have  more  sense  of  color. 
GOODWIN:   At  this  point  in  your  work,  are  you  still 
working  closely  with  nature  or  are  you  freer  to  compose, 
say,  in  your  own  studio? 

SHEETS:   Well,  I've  been  doing  that  for  many  years, 
working  in  the  studio,  but  I've  always  felt  that  you 
have  to  do  both.   For  me  I  find  it  extremely  exciting 
to  go  out  and  paint,  even  today.   Maybe  I'm  not  as  agile 
as  I  used  to  be,  and  it  isn't  as  comfortable  as  it  used 
to  be  sitting  around  in  the  cold  and  wind  and  on  the 
ground,  but  I  feel  great  when  I  go  out  painting.   Then 
I  feel  equally  excited  to  come  back  and  work  purely  from 
the  things  that  are  in  my  head  and  the  memory  of  beautiful 
things.   Very  often  I  make  a  painting  from  a  little  rough 
pen  drawing  that  I  might  have  made  ten  or  fifteen  years 
ago,  and  it  wasn't  even  a  very  descriptive  pen  drawing, 
maybe  just  a  few  lines  to  suggest  something.   I  go  through 
files  and  sketchbooks  and  that  kind  of  thing,  sometimes, 
and  work  like  that.   This  one  is  purely  a  composition,  of 
course,  with  the  elements  that  I  like:   flowers  and  hills 
and  water  and  horses.   But  I  like  acrylic  because  it's  a 


medium  you  can  work  in  on  and  on.   I  paint  all  my  large 
murals  in  acrylic.   It's  much  easier  to  work  indefinitely 
with  acrylic. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  move  in  back  here,  looking  at  a  painting 
called  Spanish — whoops,  that's  the  painting  we  just  moved. 
This  is  a  painting  of  India.   No,  Nepal.   [Old  Temple , 
Katmandu,  Nepal,  1968] 

SHEETS:   Right.   It's  an  old  temple  in  Nepal.   I  probably 
became  more  descriptive  here  than  I  had  done  for  a  long 
time,  but  I  was  quite  enamored  with  the  temples  and  the 
architecture  and  the  costumes  of  the  people.   On  trips 
of  this  kind,  I  liked  very  much  to  make  good  records  and 
notes  which  mean  something  to  me,  from  which,  again,  your 
ideas  flow  more  easily  and  freely  when  you  get  back  in 
your  studio,  and  sometimes  even  many,  many  years  later. 
Of  course,  with  that  fantastic  little  piece  of  the 
Himalayas  back  there,  you  get  some  sense  of  the  wildness 
of  this  country.   But  the  rivers  are  very  bold  and  strong, 
This  one  happened  to  be  in  a  fairly  dry  season,  but  they 
really  have  fantastic  rivers  and  unbelievable,  dramatic 

GOODWIN:   This  seems  to  be  a  much  tighter  painting  than 
the  one  we  just  looked  at. 

SHEETS:  Well,  that's  what  I  meant  when  I  said  that  very 
often  I  work  in  a  more  descriptive  sense  to  get  material 
together  and  really  figure  out  how  that  particular  place 


works.   Then  perhaps  later  on,  not  that  I  would  paint 
this  over  again,  but  I  might  use  this  kind  of  thing  in 
the  background  of  a  composition,  where  I  would  use  it 
much  more  freely  because  I  understand  it.   I  like  to 
feel  that  part  of  your  work  regularly  is  to  research. 
It's  to  find  out  how  things  are  made.   I  do  love  the 
facts  sometimes,  and  this  happens  to  be  one  of  those 

times . 

GOODWIN:   You've  painted  everywhere  in  the  world  you've 


SHEETS:   Yes,  I  certainly  have.   That's  one  of  the  great 
things  about  watercolor  as  a  medium.   You  can  carry  it 
with  you  so  easily.   When  you're  through,  you  put  it  in 
your  portfolio  immediately.   You  don't  have  to  wait  for 
oil  paint  to  dry.   It's  very,  very  easy  to  travel  with. 
I  carry  about  fifty  pounds  of  equipment  with  me  when  I 
go  around  the  world,  but  that  isn't  too  bad. 
GOODWIN:   Let's  look  at  another  scene  from  India,  I 


SHEETS:   No,  that's  also  Nepal  [The  Cloth  Dyers,  Katmandu, 
Nepal,  1967].   It's  along  another  river  where  they  dye 
the  material  that  they  use  for  native  costumes.   It's 
dyed  in  long,  long  strips,  then  it's  cut  up  later  for 
use  as  a  garment.   But  after  they've  washed  it  in  the 
river  all  day,  they  stretch  it  out  on  the  sand — it's 
fairly  clean  sand— and  they  let  it  dry  out.   Then  it's 


ready  to  be  used.   But  it  makes  nice  patterns,  and  the 
people  are  colorful . 

GOODWIN:   You've  explained  in  the  past  that  any  painting, 
whether  it's  representational  or  not,  should  have  a  solid, 
underlying  design.   Does  this  painting  have  more  of  an 
abstract  quality  to  you  than,  say,  the  one  we  just  looked 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I  think  so.   It  probably  does  have.   I 
think  just  the  arrangement  of  the  stripes  within  the 
page  and  the  river  and  the  simplification  of  the  land- 
scape and  all  that,  with  those  little  buildings  in  the 
background,  making  it  a  shape  against  this  as  a  shape — 
I  think  that's  true.   I  try  to  do  that  in  almost  every 
painting.   Sometimes  you  fail,  but  you  try. 
GOODWIN:   How  consistent  do  you  feel  you  are  as  a  painter? 
Are  you  pleased  with  most  everything  you  do  or  are  there 
rare  occasions  when  you  feel  that  you've  done  something 
especially  rewarding? 

SHEETS:   Oh,  I  certainly  feel  that  way.   I've  never 
painted  anything  I  didn't  try  very  hard  to  paint  well. 
I  have  never  painted  anything  just  to  make  a  painting. 
I've  never  turned  out  a  picture  in  my  life  just  for  the 
sake  of  turning  out  a  picture.   But  I  do  think  that  you 
do  go  through  doors  occasionally  that  are  very  exciting. 
When  you  go  through  that  door,  you  know  it,  because  the 
painting  certainly  reflects  it.   On  trips,  you  gather 


steam,  as  a  rule.   When  I  go,  for  instance  to  Tahiti  for 
two  or  three  weeks,  or  to  India — it  doesn't  make  any 
difference — or  to  Mexico,  after  about  half  of  the  time, 
you  really  warm  up.   It's  not  different  than  a  football 
player.   You  get  so  with  it  that  you  begin  to  work  very 
much  more  instinctively,  and  you  put  more  of  yourself 
into  it.   You're  less  involved  with  what  you  see.   Every 
so  often  you  go  through  a  brand-new  door,  like  this 
working  in  the  new  color  a  few  years  ago.   I  was,  I 
suppose,  hopped  up  in  the  sense  that  I  had  really  broken 
through  something  that  had  bothered  me  all  my  life.   I 
painted  with  great  intensity  for  a  long  time  with  just 
the  exhilaration  of  that  sense  of  breaking  through.   But 
every  painting  is  an  effort,  as  far  as  I'm  concerned,  to 
find  out  something  or  to  express  something  that  I  feel 
very  deeply.   Sometimes  they  certainly  don't  necessarily 
happen  in  the  same  painting.   A  lot  of  research  is  impor- 
tant to  any  development,  I  believe.   Maybe  I'm  just  a 
slow  thinker  and  have  to  research  slowly,  but  I  contin- 
uously work  at  it. 

GOODWIN:   Good.   Let's  look  at  some  more  examples  of  your 
painting  in  the  other  side  of  the  gallery. 
SHEETS:   All  right. 

GOODWIN:   We're  looking  at  three  more  paintings  from  the 


1960s.   The  central  painting  is  an  acrylic,  and  the  two 
outside  paintings  are  watercolors.   It  seems  to  me  that 
the  central  painting  represents  a  more  romantic  and  more 
fantastic  kind  of  imagery  than  the  two  watercolors. 
SHEETS:   Well,  it  does.   There's  no  doubt  about  it,  George 
I  think  this  is  closer  to  the  way  I  paint  today,  much 
closer  than  the  ones  we've  been  looking  at.   Again,  it's 
a  composition  made  from  just  feelings  about  places.   I've 
been  along  the  sea  of  northern  California  practically  the 
length  of  California,  and  there  are  many  places  that  I 
enjoy,  little  bays  and  the  marvelous  trees  that  come 
right  down  to  the  water.   This  is  purely  a  composition, 
but  I  feel  freer  both  in  color  and  in  design  when  I  work 
that  way.   There's  no  doubt  about  it. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  compare  it  briefly  to  the  landscape  of 
Istanbul.   [Istanbul,  Turkey,  1971] 

SHEETS:   Well,  in  this  case,  if  you've  ever  been  to 
Istanbul,  you  know  that  the  waterfront  is  a  teeming  place. 
In  fact,  the  whole  city  is.   With  the  excitement  that 
these  big  mosques  give  to  the  skyline  and  the  activity 
along  the  Bosporus,  the  boats  and  the  shacks  and  the 
people,  I  suppose  it's  deliberately  made  to  appear  busy 
like  the  area  felt  to  me.   I've  never  been  colder  in  my 
life  that  I  was  when  I  painted  that  picture,  but  I  did 
paint  it  and  I  finished  it  right  on  the  spot.   It  was  a 
tremendously  difficult  thing  because  of  the  cold,  but  I 


thoroughly  loved  Istanbul.   I've  been  there  many  times. 
GOODWIN:   We've  discussed  earlier  how  you  paint  water- 
color,  but  could  you  just  briefly  review  the  steps  you 
follow  in  a  painting  like  this? 

SHEETS:   Well,  in  a  watercolor,  of  course,  you  depend 
upon  the  white  of  the  paper  to  be  your  white  pigment — 
you  use  no  white — so  naturally  you  have  to  preserve  these 
lighter  areas.   At  the  same  time,  in  order  to  make  this 
water  shine  with  the  light  on  it,  the  sky  had  to  come 
down  far  enough  in  value.   So  in  this  case,  I  threw  a 
wash  right  over  the  whole  background  that  was  approximately 
the  color  of  that  sky.   Oh,  I  think  that  perhaps  had  two 
washes  on  it.   That  way  this  whole  thing  all  pulled 
together,  and  I  might  have  wiped  that  out  with  a  sponge 
halfway  between  these  values.   Just  with  one  swipe  you 
can  do  that.   You  build  it  up  with  underpainting  the  same 
way  you  put  stud  walls  up  before  you  put  shingles  or 
surfaces  on  the  walls.   I  think  that  watercolor,  when 
you  feel  that  free  about  it,  is  much  more  fun  than  when 
you  are  precious  about  it  and  say,  "Well,  once  over  and 
that's  it."   That's  what  I  meant  a  little  earlier  when 
I  said  to  go  down  in  value  and  to  go  into  any  kind  of 
richness  of  tone,  to  hold  this  whole  dark  and  at  the 
same  time  make  it  luminous  and  open,  you've  got  to  get 
it  down  there  first  in  value  in  order  to  make  it  really 
work  against  the  greyness  of  that  dark  value,  against 


that  sky.   Watercolor  is  a  very  direct  medium,  but  you 
have  to  build  it  just  like  any  other  medium. 
GOODWIN:   Are  these  whites  that  have  been  unpainted? 
SHEETS:   That's  paper.   That's  unpainted.   I've  never 
used  any  white  at  all. 

GOODWIN:   Do  you  ever  use  a  razor  blade? 

SHEETS:   No,  I  don't.   I  don't  think  it's  necessary.   If 
I  want  to  take  something  out,  I  can  cut  a  little  mask,  a 
piece  of  paper,  and  use  a  sponge,  and  get  pure  white  out 
of  it  without  abusing  the  paper.   I  just  don't  feel  happy 
about  cutting  it.   I  don't  think  it's  necessary.   If  I 
want  to  paint  a  flock  of  sea  gulls  going  right  through 
there,  I  could  take  some  shapes  of  cut-out  sea  gulls  and 
make  twenty-five  sea  gulls  running  right  through  the 
thing,  all  white  if  I  wanted  to.   It ' s  no  problem. 
There's  no  reason  to  have  to  use  a  knife.   I  think  it's 
a  kind  of  abuse  of  the  paper. 

GOODWIN:   Let's  see  exactly  how  you've  done  that  with 
another  painting  on  this  wall.   [Gulls  Migrating,  1968] 
SHEETS:   Well,  I  don't  believe  that  I  actually  wiped 
these  out,  but  I  think  you  can  see  the  drawing  of  the 
birds,  as  I  drew  them  in.   These  women  come  down  to  the 
pool  to  get  water.   As  you  see,  there  are  three  or  four 
figures  going  back  up  toward  the  little  village.   As 
they  come  down,  they  nearly  always  raise  a  few  birds. 
This  is  a  case  where  you  just  have  the  simple  trunks 


of  the  trees  and  the  roots  and  the  pool  and  the  birds 
and  the  women  and  that's  it.   But  this  one  happened  to 
be  very  thoroughly  designed.   I  draw  with  a  pen  a  great 
deal  because  I  think  it's  a  very  nice  quality.   I  use  a 
pen  that  doesn't  in  any  way  bleed.   It's  waterproof.   So 
when  I  commit  myself,  I've  really  committed  myself.   But 
I  find  it's  good  for  me  to  do  that,  to  make  up  my  mind. 
GOODWIN:   We've  noticed  just  from  a  few  paintings  that 
the  horse  is  a  favorite  subject  of  yours,  but  it  also 
is  evident  that  birds  are,  too. 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I  love  birds.   I  love  everything  about 
nature.   I  think  the  magic  of  life  is  so  infinite  that 
the  more  we  can  crowd  our  feeling  about  it  into  a 
painting  the  better. 

GOODWIN:   We're  going  to  look  at  one  more  group  of 
paintings  in  another  gallery. 

We're  actually  looking  at  a  tapestry  and  not  a 
painting  [Falconers,  1960]  .   This  was  a  tapestry  that 
was  designed  as  a  result  of  Mr.  Sheets 's  trip  to  the 
Negev,  in  Israel. 

SHEETS:   Yes,  I  had  the  real  pleasure  of  seeing  a  large 
encampment  of  Bedouins,  who  were  in  the  southern  part  of 
Israel,  at  the  time  I  was  there  making  a  motion  picture. 
They  were  having  a  marvelous  time  with  their  horses,  as 


many  as  fifty  or  seventy-five  of  them  galloping  at  one 
time  in  a  wild  race.   Then  others  were  using  their 
falcons.   It  was  like  going  back  to  the  sixteenth  or 
seventeenth  century.   I  loved  the  textures  on  the  Negev. 
There  is  a  very  fuzzy,  little  growth  that  is  kind  of 
exciting,  I  think  the  tapestry  has  the  spirit  of  it, 
as  I  remembered  it.   I  had  the  pleasure  of  making  the 
cartoon  and  then  sending  it  to  Aubusson  in  France, 
where  it  was  woven. 

GOODWIN:   I've  learned  something  in  particular  this 
morning  that  I  didn't  really  anticipate.   That  is,  in 
the  past  we've  spoken  a  great  deal  about  the  importance 
of  drawing — not  only  in  your  work  but  in  the  work  of 
students — and  it  appears  to  me  that  color  plays  such 
a  pervasive  role  in  your  painting,  that  you  really 
have  a  very  fanciful  and  romantic  use  of  color. 
SHEETS:   Well,  this  again  is  about  the  same  period  as 
those  two  acrylics  that  we  looked  at.   I  think  it  was 
the  reveling  in  the  new  use  of  color  that  made  this 
perhaps  seem  more  colorful  to  you.   I  love  the  subtle- 
ties in  funny  brown  bushes  and,  of  course,  I  like  the 
spots  on  horses,  and  I  like  the  textures  that  you  get. 
But  I  am  tremendously  excited  about  color,  and  all  of 
my  large  murals  now,  that  I've  done  in  the  last  ten  or 
fifteen  years,  have  shown  this  same  thing  because  I'm 
really  very  much  interested  in  color.   You  can't 


separate  it  from  drawing  or  values,  but  I  think  it's 
necessary  to  create  a  color  chord  in  the  same  way  that 
a  musician  creates  chords.   Whether  you  have  it  in  dis- 
sonance or  harmony,  the  chords  must  be  there.   This  has 
been  my  search,  I  think,  for  the  past  fifteen  years, 
particularly  in  all  my  painting.   Even  in  my  buildings, 
I  work  very  hard  to  get  this  juicy  quality,  as  though 
everything  has  been  dipped  in  one  kind  of  a  juice. 
GOODWIN:   Mr.  Sheets,  is  there  a  difference  between  your 
commercial  style  and  your  personal  style? 
SHEETS:   Only  because  of  the  problems  that  are  involved 
with  a  commercial  work  of  art.   You  have  an  obligation 
to  meet  the  needs  of  the  problem,  which  does  impose 
special  restrictions.   But  as  far  as  I'm  concerned, 
there's  absolutely  no  difference  in  my  approach. 
GOODWIN:   I'd  like  to  try  and  bring  some  loose  ends 
together  in  terms  of  a  conclusion  to  this  project.   I 
know  art  historians  like  to  use  labels,  but  I  don't  know 
what  to  do  in  your  instance,  because  we've  reviewed  your 
work  as  an  artist,  architectural  designer,  educator, 
correspondent,  diplomat,  collector,  equestrian--what 
kind  of  label  do  we  put  on  you? 

SHEETS:   I  don't  think  I  have  to  have  a  label,  do  I? 
Don't  you  think  that  the  important  thing  in  life  is  to 
get  the  most  out  of  it?  As  far  as  I'm  concerned,  every- 
thing I've  done  has  been  because  I  was  intrigued  and 


excited  about  the  potential  of  doing  the  thing.   I  have 
always  thought  primarily  of  myself  as  a  painter.   If  I 
lived  my  life  over  again,  though  I  might  have  been  a 
better  painter  if  I  had  not  done  these  other  things, 
I  certainly  would  go  through,  I'm  sure,  the  same  kind 
of  experiences.   I've  thrived  on  them,  in  the  sense  that 
I  really  believe  in  an  artist  being  involved  in  life, 
not  living  in  a  special  place  unless  he  has  very  excep- 
tional talent,  which  I,  perhaps,  don't  have.   I  think 
there  are  people  who  can  live  in  an  ivory  tower,  but  an 
ivory  tower  has  never  been  for  me. 

GOODWIN:   Thank  you  very  much  for  participating  in  this 
project.   It's  been  a  pleasure. 

SHEETS:   It's  certainly  been  my  pleasure,  and  I  certainly 
appreciate  everything  you've  done,  George. 
GOODWIN:   Thank  you. 



Abbey,  Edward  Austin 
Afflerbaugh,  Jack 
Ahmanson,  Howard 

Ahmanson,  Mrs.  Howard 
Ahmanson,  Robert 
Ahmanson,  William 
Ahmanson  Center 
Alexander,  Hartley 
Alexander,  Hubert  G. 
Alexander,  Nellie 
Ambassador  Hotel 
American  Academy,  Rome 
Ames,  Arthur 
Ames,  Jean 

Angelus  Temple  Church  of 

the  Foursquare  Gospel 
Arensberg,  Walter 
Armitage,  Merle 

Millard  Sheets  (book) 
Armour,  Richard 
Arnold,  Henry 
Art  Center  School 

Association  of  American  Colleges 
Astoria  Hotel,  Leningrad 
Autumn  Salon,  Paris 
Avignon  Pieta,  Louvre 



297,  334-335,  368- 

390,  396,  417-419, 





379,  418 

97-110,  121 


99,  104,  105-106 



332,  366, 

125,  141, 



145,  366, 







359,  364 

149,  150-158 

44,  47 
43,  484 



Bailey,  Mr.  

Baker,  Derwood 

Baldwin,  Lucky 

Barbizon  Plaza  Hotel,  New  York 

Barking  Rocks,  Gualala,  California 

Barlow,  Jarvis 

Baskerville,  Mary 

see  Sheets,  Mary  Baskerville 
Baskerville,  Mary  Dalton 

Baziotes,  William 
Beauchamp,  Tony 











Beckett,  Wei ton  D. 

Beesmeyer  group 

Bellows,  George 

Beverly  Hills  Club 

Biddle,  George 

Biddle  family 

Bierstadt,  Albert 

Biltmore  Gallery  (Biltmore-Cowie) 

Blau,  Herbert 

Bohrod,  Aaron 

Botticelli,  Sandro 

Boy  Scouts  of  America 

Bradbrooks,  Milton 

Brangwyn,  Frank 

Bridge  of  Espallion 
Braque,  Georges 
Braun,  John 

British  Broadcasting  Corporation 
British  Museum,  London 
Brooklyn  Museum 
Brown,  Ric 
Bruce,  Edward 
Bryan,  William  A. 
Bullock's  Department  Store 

Pasadena  store 
Byrnes,  James 



10-11,  264 














226,  520 


58,  300 


359,  366-367 





Cal-Aero  School 

California  Art  Club 

California  Club 

California  Coastal  Commission 

California  Institute  of  the  Arts 

California  Watercolor  Society 
Carnegie  International  Exhibition, 

Chace,  Burton  W. 
Chagall,  Marc 
Chamt>erlain,  F.  Tolles 

Chamberlain,  Mrs.  Tolles 
Chandler,  Dorothy 
Chandler,  Marilyn 
Chandler,  Norman 
Chandler  family 
Chapin,  John 
Chiang  Kai-shek 
Chicago  Tribune  (newspaper) 



317,  471 


33,  91,  93, 


24,  58,  363 

311,  558 















19,  21,  23,  24, 
3,  35,  89,  351- 

334-335,  336 



Childs,  Kenneth 
Chouinard,  Nelbert 

Chouinard  Art  Institute 

Claremont  Colleges 

see  also  Claremont  Men's  College; 

Harvey  Mudd  College;  Pomona 

College;  Scripps  College 
Claremont  Men's  College 
Colorado  Springs  Fine  Arts 

Center,  School  of  Art 
Columbia  Broadcasting  System 
Columbia  Showcase  Company 
Comfort,  Will  Levington 
Communist  party 
Copley,  John  Singleton 
Cornell  University 
Corrigan,  Robert 
Covarrubias,  Miguel 
Cowie,  Alexander,  and  Gallery 
Craig,  Tom 
Criley,  Ted 
Crum,  William 


17,  18-19,  57,  89, 

91,  93 

17-22,  29,  32,  33- 

37,  41,  45,  56-57, 

69,  89-94,  167-168, 

351-352,  362 






















,  203 





Daggs,  Helen 
Dartmouth  College 
Davidson,  Howard  C. 
Davidson,  Mrs.  Howard  C. 
Davis,  Edgar  B.,  Prize 
Debs,  Ernest 
De  Kruif,  Henri 
Delacour,  Jean 
Democratic  party 
Derain,  Andre 
Detroit  Institute  of  Arts 
Detroit  Public  Library 
Dieterle,  William 
Dike,  Phil 

Disney,  Roy 
Disney,  Walt 

Disney,  Walt,  Studios 
Disney  family 
Dorfinant,  Gaston 







57-58,  59 







21,  33-34,  90,  124, 

141,  145,  352 


33,  90,  93,  162, 

339-342,  343,  344 

90,  124,  340 




Dorn,  Warren  M.  338 

Duveen,  Joseph  25 

Earhart,  Amelia  247 

Earl,  Ralph  537 

Edmondson,  Leonard  3  21 

Edward  VII,  King  of  England  491 

Egan,  Mark  448-449 

Ellerbe  and  Associates  422-424,  430,  434- 

435,  444 

Everett,  Josephine  113 

Falcon  (flying  school)  182 

Federated  Department  Stores  539,  541 

of  America 

Feitelson,  Lorser  359,  365-366 

Fenci,  Renzo  321 

Flannery,  James  260-261 

Fong,  Jade  76,  290 

Ford,  John  Anson  315-318,  337,  503 

Francesca,  Piero  della  446 

Freed,  Ernest  330 

Fuller,  Dick  553 

Gardner,  Helen 

Art  Through  the  Ages  19 

Garibaldi,  Giuseppe  491 

Garrison,  Robert  H.  472,  474 

Garrison,  Mrs.  Robert  H.      -  472,  474 

Garrison  Theatre,  Claremont  171,  469-476 

GI  Bill  of  Rights  91,  125,  128-129 

Gilbert,  Cass  39-40,  41,  42 
Gladding-McBean  Company 

see  Interpace  Company 

Glendale  Airport  173 

Gogh,  Vincent  van  24,  29,  105-107, 


Golden  Gate  Exposition,  356,  358 

San  Francisco 

Goldwater,  Barry  530-531 

Goodhew,  Bertram  97 

Gordon,  Elizabeth  279 

Gottlieb,  Adolph  294 

Graham,  Don  21,  90 

Great  Ziegfield,  The  (film)  498 



Hahn,  Kenneth 

Haines,  Richard 

Harrison,  Preston,  and  collection 

Harvard  University 

Harvey  Mudd  College 

Hassam,  Childe 

Hatfield,  Dalzell,  and  Gallery 

Hatfield,  Mrs.  Dalzell 

Hayward,  Leland 

Head,  Edith 

Henri,  Robert 

Hermitage  Museum,  Leningrad 

Hertel,  Susan 

Hesburgh,  Theodore 

Heuduck  family 

Hilton  Hotel,  Honolulu 

Hinkle,  Clarence 

Hofmann,  Hans 

Hollywood  Bank 

Hollywood  Savings  and  Loan 

Homes  Savings  and  Loan  Association 

Anaheim  branch 

Barstow  branch 

Hollywood  branch 

Pasadena  branch 

San  Diego  branch 

San  Francisco  branch 

Santa  Maria  branch 

Santa  Monica  branch 
Homer,  Win slow 
Homolka,  Frank 
Honolulu  Academy  of  Art 
Horlocker,  Leta 
House  Beautiful  (periodical) 
Hulburd,  David,  Jr. 
Huntington,  Henry 
Huntington  Library  and  Art  Gallery 









502,  503 


37,  38, 
105,  359 


429,  439, 


37,  38 



10,  11,  264 



406,  434, 





12,  13,  17,  22, 

32-33,  36,  58 




367,  380,  382-405, 

409-417,  418,  460 









58,  61, 










305,  308 

Interpace  Company 


Irish,  Mrs.  Leiland  Atherton 





Jam  Saheb  of  Nawanger,  The 
Jaqua,  Ernst 

Jepson,  Herbert 

Johnson,  Ebert 

Johnson,  Frances 

Joseph  and  His  Brethren  (film) 

Joubert  de  la  Ferte,  Philip  B. 

Joyce,  Edmund  P. 


94,  111-112,  113, 

114,  117,  118 

35,  90,  321,  347 


2,  16 




440,  454 

429,  439- 

Katz,  Leo 

Keaton,  Buster 
Kent,  Rockwell 
Krushchev,  Nikita 
Knudsen,  Vern  O. 
Kosa,  Emil 
Kroll,  Leon 
Kuntz,  Roger 










Labaudt,  Lucien 

Ladd,  Thornton,  and  Associates 

Laguna  Beach  Art  Association 

Lang ,  Mr .  

Lang,  Florence  Rand 
Lasansky,  Mauricio 
Laurie,  Lee 

The  Sower 
Lebrun,  Rico 

Genesis  (mural) 
Leger,  Fernand 
Leviathan  (ship) 
Life  (periodical) 

Linlithgow,  Lord  Victor  A.J.H. 
Long,  Wayne 
Longwell,  Dan 
Los  Angeles  Art  Academy 
Los  Angeles  Athletic  Club 
Los  Angeles  Chamber  of  Commerce 
Los  Angeles  City  Hall 
Los  Angeles  County  Board  of 






152,  330 



90,  164,  170 




188,  215,  234, 

238,  240,  246, 


217-218,  219 



17,  18 








337-339,  501- 


Los  Angeles  County  Fair 

"5,000  Years  of  Art  in  Clay" 
"One  World  of  Art" 
"Painting  in  the  U.S." 
"Western  Living" 

Los  Angeles  County  Museum  of  Art 


Preston  Harrison  collection 
Los  Angeles  County  Seal 
Los  Angeles  Examiner  (newspaper) 
Los  Angeles  Times  (newspaper) 

Louvre  museum 
Luce,  Henry 
Luckenbach  Lines 
Lukes,  George 
Lundeberg,  Helen 

9-10,  32,  264-276, 
278-281,  287,  293- 

296,  302-309,  311 

270-276,  278 


279-281,  287,  293, 

305,  308 

23-24,  267,  294- 

297,  300,  339, 

267,  294-297 




86,  275-278,  333, 

368,  503 

43,  271 






McClellan,  Douglas 

MacDonald-Wright,  Stanton 

McFee,  Henry  Lee 

McKinney,  Roland 

McNaughton,  Elizabeth  Baskerville 

McPherson,  Aimee  Semple 

Ma loo f,  Sam 

Mann,  Thomas 

Joseph  and  His  Brethren 
Manship,  Paul 

March  Air  Force  Base,  Riverside 
Martin,  Fletcher 
Martinez,  Alfred  Ramos 

see  Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temples 
Matisse,  Henri 

Matters,  Nilgiil 
Matters,  Robert 

Mayo  Clinic,  Rochester,  Minnesota 
Mestrovic,  Ivan 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  Studios 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art, 
New  York 

"Artists  for  Victory" 

"Before  Cortez" 

128-129,  145 


124,  141,  145 







131,  140,  405 




24,  29,  48,  135, 

144,  402 



422,  423 



58,  271,  278,  295, 

312-314,  550 




Meyer,  Ellsworth 


Milburn,  Oliver 

Milles,  Carl 

Millier,  Arthur 

Miro,  Joan 

Modern  Institute  of  Art, 

Beverly  Hills 
Modra,  Theodore  B. 

Montclair  Museum,  New  Jersey 
Moore,  Eudorah 
Moroshkina,  Lydia 
Moscow  News  (newspaper) 
Moselly,  Corliss  C. 
Mosman,  Warren  T. 
Motherwell,  Robert 
Mountbatten,  Lord  Louis 
Mugnani,  Joe 

Murphy,  Father  

Murphy,  Francis 

Music  Center  of  Los  Angeles  County 
Ahmanson  Theatre 

485,  489,  490 

19,  43,  72 






9-11,  13,  17,  44, 

58,  264-266,  267, 




518-520,  528 


173-175,  178 



222-224,  244 




334,  419 



National  Academy  of  Design,  New  York 
National  American  Insurance 

Building,  Los  Angeles 
National  Endowment  for  the  Arts 
National  Gallery  of  Art, 

Washington,  D.C. 
National  Shrine,  Washington  D.C. 
Newhouse,  Bert 

Newhouse  Gallery,  Los  Angeles 
Newhouse  Gallery,  New  York 
New  Orleans  Drama  Society 

and  Theater 
Nicholson,  Grace 
North  Carolina  Museum  of  Art, 

Notre  Dame  University 

313,  419-420 


454-459,  461 

30,  31-32 




297,  298,  309 

422-454,  462-463 

O'Day,  Pat 
Orozco,  Jose 

Prometheus  (mural) 


159-163,  164,  169, 


159-163,  358 


Otis  Art  Institute 

Otis  Art  Institute  Gallery 
Otis  family 
Owen,  Emma 
Owen,  Hal lie 

see  Perrin, 
Owen,  Louis 
Owen,  Milly 

see  Sheets, 
Owens,  Jesse 

Hal lie  Owen 

Milly  Owen 

17,  18,  58,  91,  93, 

134,  266,  294,  295, 

315-339,  349,  501, 




1,  3-4,  5-6,  15 

1,  3-6,  15 


Padelford,  Morgan 

Palace  of  the  Legion  of  Honor, 

San  Francisco 
Pan  Pacific  Auditorium 
Paradise,  Phil 
Pasadena  Art  Museum 

"California  Design"  series 
Pasadena  City  College 
Patterson,  Patty 
Payne,  Edgar 
Pennsylvania  Academy 
Pereira,  William 
Perrin,  Chauncey  C. 
Perrin,  Clarence 
Perrin,  Hallie  Owen 
Petterson,  Richard 
Philadelphia  Museum  of  Art 
Picasso,  Pablo 
Pijuan  y  Soteras,  Jose 
Pomona  College 

see  also  Scripps  College 

Pomona  High  School 
Poor,  Henry  Varnum 
Powell  and  Powell 
Price,  Vincent 
Prix  de  Rome 

Puthoff,  Hanson 
Putnam,  George 

94,  95,  97 


431,  477 


297-299,  300, 


309,  532-533 








6-7,  16,  20 

6,  16 

124,  268,  307 


72,  135,  144, 



8,  16-17,  38, 


100,  109,  123 

,  133 

134,  155-164, 


358,  473 


36  7 



19,  129,  130- 





Radio  City  Music  Hall,  New  York 



Ravenna  Mosaic  Company,  St.  Louis 
Reader' s  Digest  (periodical) 
Reinhardt,  Ad 
Rembrandt  van  Rijn 
Republican  party 
Rivera,  Diego 

Rockefeller,  Nelson 
Roosevelt,  Franklin  Delano 
Ruddock,  Albert 




45,  540 


26,  164-166, 






San  Diego  Fine  Arts  Gallery 
San  Francisco  Art  Institute 
Santa  Anita  Race  Track 
Santa  Barbara  Museum  of  Art 
Schneer,  Jacques 
Schroder,  Edwin  R. 

Scott,  Mr.  

Scott,  David 

Scott,  Virginia 

Scott,  Virginia  Steele, 

Scott,  Virginia  Steele, 

Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temple, 

Los  Angeles 
Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temple 

(Grand  Lodge),  San  Francisco 
Scripps  College,  Pomona 


Lang  Art  Gallery 

Lang  Hall 
Scripps  College  Fine  Arts  Foundation 
Sears,  Roebuck  and  Company 
Seattle  Art  Museum 
Sennett,  Mac 
Serisawa,  Sueo 
Service,  Hal 
Sevareid,  Eric 

Seward,  Mrs.  

Shahn,  Ben 

Shakespeare,  William 
Sharp,  Richard 








128,  145 

297-298,  531-538 

168,  531-538,  557 


428,  485-498 


38,  50,  57,  88-89, 
94-101,  107,  108- 
150,  153,  158,  161, 

170,  173, 



299,  308, 



323,  326, 



354,  362, 



461,  470, 



501,  559 















155,  170, 




Sheets,  Caroline 

Sheets,  David 

Sheets,  John  A. 

Sheets,  John  G. 

Sheets,  Mrs.  John  G.  (stepmother) 

Sheets,  Lewis 

Sheets,  Mary  Baskerville 

(Mrs.  Millard) 

Sheets,  Millard  Owen,  Jr. 
Sheets,  Milly  Owen  (Mrs.  John  G.) 
Sheets,  Tony 
Shriners  Hospital  for 

Crippled  Children 
Siqueiros,  David 
Smith,  Whitney 
Soldner,  Paul 
Solomon,  King  of  Israel 
Southern  Methodist  University 
Southern  University,  Baton  Rouge 
South  Pasadena  Junior  High  School 
Sovietskaya  Hotel,  Moscow 
Speicher,  Eugene 
Spencer,  Niles 
Stalin,  Joseph 
Stanford  University 
Steele,  Archibald 
Stendahl,  Al 

Stendahl,  Earl,  and  Gallery 
Stendahl,  Enid 
Stewart,  Albert 

Stewart,  Marian 
Stickney  Art  Institute 
Stilwell,  Joseph  W. 
Stone,  Edward  Dure 11 
Stone,  Irving 

Lust  for  Life 

Stover,  Clarence 
Stuart,  Gilbert 
Studio  (periodical) 
Svenson,  John 




3,  5 










1,  3 































180,  555 

-6,  7 

6,  51,  54,  89, 
99,  106,  114, 
180,  240,  253, 
261,  507,  510- 
532,  542,  554- 

,  6,  7 


168,  353 





6,  27,  28 

131,  140-142, 
492,  493 

175,  176,  179 

Tamayo,  Rufino 
Taylor,  Florence  Ingal 
(Mrs.  George  A. ) 

164,  169 


Taylor,  Francis 

Texas  A  &  M  University 

Texas  Tech  University,  The  Museum  of 

Thorpe,  James 

Thunderbird  I  (flying  school) 

Thunderbird  II  (flying  school) 

Tile  and  Marble  Helpers  and 

Shopmen  Union 

see  also  Life 
Tulane  University 
Turner,  J.M.W. 
Tuskegee  Institute 









260,  261-264 





United  Press  International 
U.S.  Air  Force 

U.S.  Army 

Air  Force 

Corps  of  Engineers 
U.S.  Department  of  Defense 
U.S.  Department  of  State 

American  Specialist  Program 
U.S.  Department  of  the  Treasury 
U.S.  Federal  Bureau  of  Investigation 
U.S.  Public  Works  Administration 
Universal  Studios 
University  of  Arizona 
University  of  California,  Berkeley 

School  of  Architecture 
University  of  California,  Los  Angeles 

Art  Library 
University  of  California,  Santa  Cruz 
University  of  Hawaii 
University  of  Illinois 
University  of  Iowa 
University  of  Mexico,  Mexico  City 
University  of  Minnesota 
University  of  Nebraska 
University  of  New  Mexico 
University  of  Oklahoma 
University  of  Southern  California 

School  of  Architecture 


























54,  ; 














,  154 






,  336 






Valentiner,  William 
Van  Sant,  Tom 




Veale,  Bill  31,  39-40,  45,  50 

Vermeer,  Jan  44-45 

Vista  del  Arroyo  Hotel,  Pasadena  113 

Voulkos,  Peter  321,  330-331 

Vysekal,  Edouard  58,  363 


Wallace,  John  399 

Warren,  Earl  273-275 

Washington,  George  493 

Watkins,  Franklin  312 

Watrons,  Frank  55  0 

Watson,  Helen  332 

Waugh,  William  25 

Wavell,  Archibald  Percival  219-222 

Wavell,  Mrs.  Archibald  220-222 

Webster,  Ida  13 

White,  Theodore  244 

Will,  Arthur  337,  338 

Wilson,  William  86 

Witte  Memorial  Museum,  31 

San  Antonio,  Texas 

Wood,  Beatrice  551 

Wood,  Grant  152-153 

Wurl,  Edward  245-253,  255 

Wiarl,  Mrs.  Edward  2  55 

Xavier  University,  New  Orleans  154-155 


Yens,  Carl  59 

Young  Men's  Christian  Association  15-16,  352 

Zajac,  Jack  129-132,  134 

Zerubabel  491,  493 

Zornes,  Milfred  96 





Arizona  Mission  544 

Cloth  Dyers,  Katmandu,  Nepal,  The  564-565 

Detroit  Public  Library  mural  419-422 

Falcolners  (tapestry)  570 

Familia  Eguus  in  Elysian  Field  560-562 

Garrison  Theatre,  Claremont,  170-171,  469-476 
building  and  mosaics 

Golden  Gate  Exposition  murals  356 

Gulls  Migrating  569-570 

Gypsy  series  36-38 

Hilton  Hotel,  Honolulu,  rainbow  476-481 

Hollywood  Savings  and  Loan  mural  352-353 

Home  Savings  and  Loan  buildings 
see  entry  in  main  index 

House  on  the  Hill,  The  559 

Istanbul,  Turkey  ,  567-568 

Los  Angeles  Chamber  of  Commerce  mural    356-357 

Los  Angeles  City  Hall  East  mural  481-485 
Mayo  Clinic  mural 

National  Shrine,  Washington,  D.C.  454-459,  461 

Notre  Dame  University  Library  mosaic    422-454,  462-463 

Old  Temple,  Katmandu,  Nepal  563,  565 

River  Bottom  -"-"^ 


South  Pasadena  Junior  High  School       353-356 

Spanish  563 

Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temple,  Los       428,  485-498 
Angeles,  building  and  mosaic 

Scottish  Rite  Masonic  Temple  (Grand     496-497 
Lodge),  San  Francisco,  building 
and  interior 


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